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Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who tops the second tier of presidential candidates, is emphasizing democracy reform issues more than others seeking the Democratic nomination.

Klobuchar picks Georgia to do what rivals haven’t: Lean in to democracy reform agenda

A top issue on the democracy reform agenda — protecting elections against both disinformation and cyber hacking — is getting some unusual attention this week in the Democratic presidential campaign.

Amy Klobuchar, arguably at the top of the second tier of candidates given her rising support in Iowa, went to Atlanta on Monday to highlight her efforts in the Senate to enhance election security and to unveil some additional proposals.

The choice of location made sense for two reasons. She and nine other Democrats will meet in the city Wednesday night for their latest in a series of debates where the governing system's problems have so far received short shrift. And Georgia has emerged as the most prominent state where bolstering voting rights and election integrity have become a top priority of the Democratic establishment.

The Minnesota senator, who's the top Democrat on the committee with jurisdiction over elections, has done more than most of her presidential rivals to prioritize fixing the voting system's vulnerabilities. This summer she issued a roster of the first 100 things she would do as president, and "prioritize cybersecurity and protect our elections" was No. 7.

In Atlanta, she sought to highlight her work on those issues by convening a roundtable with experts from the ACLU, the state Democratic Party and other groups.

After reiterating proposals she's pushed so far, Klobuchar vowed that as president she would work to prohibit states from culling from their voter rolls people who have not cast ballots in recent elections. This has become a flashpoint issue in Georgia, where state officials have begun plans to purge more than 300,000 registrations before the state's presidential primary on March 24.

She also said she'd push legislation outlawing exact-match standards, in which states require voter registration documents to reflect precisely the information on other government identification.

Georgia's law to this effect was among the reasons why thousands of people were turned away from the polls last year, when Democrat Stacey Abrams lost her bid to become the nation's first black female governor by the narrowest of margins. The statute, disputes over absentee and provisional ballots, and unforeseen delays at polling sites have triggered a series of federal lawsuits. Gov. Brian Kemp, who defeated Abrams while serving as the state's top election official, and other Republican officials maintain that everything civil rights groups complain about was done in the name of preventing voter fraud.

With an average of 5 percent support in recent polls, Klobuchar has risen to fifth in Iowa, where the first presidential voting will take place at the Feb. 3 caucuses. She is positioning herself mainly as a centrist who is more experienced than Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., and more vibrant than former Vice President Joe Biden.

In Atlanta, she talked about a package of proposals her campaign issued later in the day: It includes automatically registering American teenagers on their 18th birthdays, making Election Day a federal holiday, and overhauling the Federal Election Commission to boost its powers and ease its governing structure.

At the heart of her plan to combat disinformation is passage of the so-called Honest Ads Act, her bill with Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to mandate the disclosure of who pays for political advertising online. It has an equal number of supporters from each party in the House but no vote has been scheduled, and if it passes there it looks doomed to oblivion in the Senate thanks to the election reform policy roadblock erected by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Klobuchar said as president she'd revive that bill, and also would push legislation to bar foreign nationals from buying election ads or from being involved in deciding how American political action committees spend their money.

On election security, she used her time in Atlanta to underscore her work to get as much money in the coming budget as possible for grants to help the states prevent cyber attacks and modernize their voting equipment before next November.

She worked to get 36 others in her caucus to go on record Monday in favor of appropriating $600 million for the states and $16 million for the Election Assistance Commission — ideally in the stopgap funding bill on tap to be assembled this week, but if not then in the budget package that must follow. The Senate bill, which McConnell agreed to back after months of resistance, calls for only fractions of those amounts.

The other five Democratic senators running for president all signed the letter: Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

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The House on Friday passed legislation to restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill would require advance approval of voting changes in states with a history of discrimination. Here President Lyndon Johnson shares one of the pens he used to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Passage of historic voting rights law takes a partisan turn

In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.

The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Big Picture

TV stations fight FCC over political ad disclosure

Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.

With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.

This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.

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1952 Eisenhower Answers America

On TV, political ads are regulated – but online, anything goes

Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.

Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.

Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.

I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.

Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.

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