Strengthening Democracy: Brad Christian-Sallis

The 2024 Defender of Democracy has led initiative campaigns across the state and nation that advocate for voting rights, racial justice, and many other causes that ensure a more just and equitable society.

Civic Nebraska’s annual Strengthening Democracy Awards recognize Nebraskans who embody the spirit of a more modern and robust democracy. Our 2024 honorees include educators, administrators, students, and everyday Nebraskans. We’ll officially honor the winners on June 27, but before then, here’s a chance to learn more about what makes them special. 
Civic Nebraska honors Brad Christian-Sallis of Omaha for driving ballot initiative campaigns to directly bring questions of societal change to Nebraska’s 1.2 million voters. Brad has led initiative campaigns across the state and nation that advocate for voting rights, racial justice, and many other causes that ensure a more just and equitable society.
Brad Christian-Sallis, the 2024 Jan Gradwohl Memorial Defender of Democracy.
The Jan Gradwohl Memorial Defender of Democracy is given annually to a Nebraskan who leads change by connecting others to the power of voting. Honorees spread faith in our elections, stand up and speak out, and/or volunteer to defend the right to cast a ballot without unnecessary barriers.
The award is named in honor of Jan Gradwohl, the first female judge in Lancaster County and the fourth female judge statewide upon her appointment in 1974. Gradwohl advocated for judicial system improvement and equal justice and was a founding member of the International Association of Women Judges.
Brad, who received six nominations, has followed in Jan’s footsteps by being a leader in ensuring all Nebraskans have access to the ballot box. He has spent his career registering voters, organizing people to get them to the polls, and creating coalitions of leaders in the civic engagement space.
From 2017-2021, Brad was the voting rights field director at Civic Nebraska. He then worked in power-building for the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a nationwide movement-building infrastructure organization that leverages ballot measures across the United States to strengthen democracy; center people of color, queer, low-income, immigrant, Indigenous, and other marginalized communities; advance racial equity; and build and transform power.
“As an experienced organizer, Brad knows the importance of engaging communities at a grassroots level and growing leadership by investing in the power of all Nebraskans,” said nominator Claire Wiebe of Omaha.
Most recently, Brad helped lead the restoration of voting rights for Nebraskans with felony convictions, which successfully passed the Nebraska Legislature into law in April. He also can be seen regularly with petitions in hand, urging Nebraskans to sign on to a range of citizen-driven initiatives.
“His work with direct democracy has strengthened democracy by emphasizing the will of the people and growing the power of Nebraskans through their votes,” said nominator Jayne Antony of Omaha.
Brad’s commitment to justice, equity, and innovation shines in his work, his nominators said. Each emphasized his place on the cutting edge of movement-building and investing in data-driven solutions for a rapidly changing field.
“We’re lucky to have Brad as a leader in our state,” Antony said. “He is leading the way for new generations of organizers and community leaders.”
Meet Brad and his fellow honorees on June 27 at Strengthening Democracy Awards.

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