Democracy Rising Staff
Director of Outreach & Partnerships
Born and raised in Ecuador, Maria immigrated to the United States in the 1990s to pursue her education. She has crafted a career guided by her passion to address social disparities. A seasoned non-profit leader, organizer, facilitator, advocate, educator, and coalition builder, Maria is a firm believer in the power of people coming together to address complex social problems, and that democracy is the ultimate health equity indicator. She spent over ten years as a healthcare practitioner, before turning to policy, equity, and power-building work, which she has been doing for the past thirteen years. She served as Campaign Lead and later as Interim Hub Manager for the California Endowment’s project Building Healthy Communities (East Oakland), Director of FairVote New Mexico, and Campaign Manager for Common Cause New Mexico. She and co-director Grace Ramsey launched the national organization Democracy Rising in 2020, an organization that works to ensure implementation of democracy reforms in jurisdictions around the country is inclusive and just, and cultivates a new bench of diverse democracy leaders. Maria lives with her son and dog in Santa Fe, NM.
Director of Programing
Grace brings over 10 years of experience working on voter education campaigns across the country. She began her career as an organizer with FairVote Minnesota’s Rank Your Vote campaign, went on to become Deputy Director of Outreach at FairVote, and led voter education and organizing campaigns as a consultant with Democracy in Action before co-founding Democracy Rising in 2020. Grace has led voter education campaigns across the country in places like Alaska, Minneapolis & St. Paul, Maine, Santa Fe, New York City, and Utah. Over the course of her career, she has come to deeply understand and appreciate the power of community organizing. Grace specializes in voter and candidate education, training development and facilitation, community organizing, and leadership development.
Grace has worked on campaigns to adopt or implement ranked choice voting in Alaska, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Oakland, Duluth, Maine, Santa Fe, Memphis, Las Cruces, New York City, Eastpointe, Albany, Palm Desert, Yakima, in 23 cities across the state of Utah, and in the 4 states (AK, KS, HI, and WY) where the Democratic party used ranked ballots for their 2020 presidential primaries.
Jenna is a US native residing in Berlin, Germany since 2018. She assists We Are Democracy Rising through Administrative Coordination, social media management, and systems preparation. She is supported by Satiated Artists, an organization that works with matching living working artists and organizations looking for administrative, project based, and technological support.
An active poet, performance artist, and all around creative, Jenna strongly believes in the political impact the arts has on our global landscape. She is deeply invested in community building, social work equity, and queer and neurodivergent advocacy. Her writing and performance art focuses on political justice, fat activism, the beauty in the mundane, and taking up space. Jenna specializes in Non Violent Communication, conflict management, facilitation, and accessibility frameworks.
Michelle C. Whittaker
Principal at MCW Creative
As a messaging and political strategist, Michelle Whittaker has over 15 years of experience in communications, advocacy outreach, and grassroots mobilization. She is the principal at MCW Creative, a grassroots-focused strategic consulting & communications firm for nonprofits and political campaigns. She is the statewide coordinator for Ranked Choice Voting Maryland, a volunteer-led coalition working to adopt RCV for local and statewide elections. Her expertise is in campaign strategy, storytelling, constituency engagement, organizing, and media outreach. Michelle is a seasoned campaign manager and financial administrator, running successful fundraising, outreach, and election programs in Montgomery County, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Her past leadership roles include serving as the Director of Communications at FairVote, the Director of Communications for the Democracy Initiative, and the Communications and New Media Director for the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society. She has facilitated numerous workshops on campaign strategy, web development, social media strategy, messaging, and electoral reform along with contributing to academic and advocacy related publications. She organizes the revolution from her home office with her 8-year-old daughter, London, and husband, Doogie.
COO, Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund
Sangita Sigdyal is former President and CEO of Verified Voting, the leading national organization on election security. A seasoned executive with twenty-plus years in the U.S. democracy and international development spaces, Sigdyal has expertise in U.S. electoral reform, organizational strategy development and implementation, fundraising and business management.
She served as Executive VP at FairVote, a nonpartisan election reform organization. In this role, she was a key architect of FairVote’s four-year strategic planning process, program development, board governance, fiscal management and fundraising strategy.
Prior to joining FairVote, Sigdyal was Director of Operations and Interim COO at the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a 75-country multilateral initiative that promotes government transparency through citizen engagement. She has held a variety of executive positions, including at the World Bank, the Results Educational Fund and the Association for Conflict Resolution. Sigdyal also holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration (MPA) from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Former Utah State Representative
Rebecca Chavez-Houck holds a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication and a Master of Public Administration (MPA), both from the University of Utah (U of U). She represented Salt Lake City’s downtown area in the Utah House of Representatives from 2008-18, focusing on public policy related to health and human services as well as voter engagement and access. Her leadership appointments included: House Minority Whip (2014-16) and House Minority Assistant Whip (2012-14). She now provides leadership coaching and community engagement consulting through her public affairs firm,
Aspira Public Affairs, LLC. Legislative appointments that influenced her policy agenda include service on former Governor Jon Huntsman’s 2009 Commission to Strengthen Utah’s Democracy. Rebecca successfully sponsored bills establishing Election Day Voter Registration, Election Day Voting Centers, and policies for emergency voting in case of natural disasters, among other election reforms. Her 2017 Ranked Choice Voting bill was a precursor to Utah’s 2018 RCV municipal pilot law. She is a 2012 Council of State Governments (CSG) Toll Fellows Graduate and served as Latino Voting and Elections Task Force Chair for the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators until her retirement. Rebecca was a public affairs staffer for a number of local Utah nonprofits from 1985 to 2007 and cultivated a parallel “career” as a volunteer for myriad local and national nonprofits. She has been honored extensively for her efforts. Rebecca teaches non-profit administration classes as adjunct faculty for the U of U’s MPA program.
Director of Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University
Prof. Danielle is a seasoned nonprofit leader, democracy advocate, national voice on pandemic response, distinguished author, and mom. Danielle’s work to make the world better for young people has taken her from teaching college and leading a $60 million university division to driving change at the helm of a $6 billion foundation, writing for the Washington Post, advocating for cannabis legalization, democracy reform, and civic education, and most recently, to running for governor of Massachusetts. During the height of COVID in 2020, Danielle’s leadership in rallying coalitions and building solutions resulted in the country’s first-ever Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience; her policies were adopted in federal legislation and a Biden executive order. Danielle made history as the first Black woman ever to run for statewide office in Massachusetts. She continues to advocate for democracy reform to create greater voice and access in our democracy, and drive progress towards a new social contract that delivers healthy communities, a healthy democracy, and a healthy climate for our country and our Commonwealth.