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"It's time for the remaining candidates to get serious about the task at hand," argues Helen Butler.

Democratic hopefuls must answer: How they will save our democracy?

Butler is executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples' Agenda, a nonprofit organization that advocates for voting rights and civil rights.

Let's not sugar-coat the situation: Our democracy is under attack.

When President Trump disregards Congress' oversight authority, our democracy is under attack.

When state election officials suppress voter turnout in communities of color, our democracy is under attack.

When corporate donors anonymously funnel untold millions of dollars into campaigns, our democracy is under attack.

As Atlanta prepares to host Wednesday night's Democratic presidential debate, it's time to put the national spotlight on one topic that hasn't received enough attention during this campaign: What are the candidates going to do to protect and strengthen our democracy?

So, while topics such as health care, national security, immigration and where the candidates stand on impeachment are critical and worthy of discussion, none of those issues will matter much in the long run if this great 243-year-old American experiment in democracy fails.

Our democracy is facing grave challenges at both the national and local levels. In Georgia, we've seen the secretary of state announce plans to purge 330,000 infrequent voters from the rolls under the guise of "routine maintenance." We've seen polling places in communities of color shut down, making it more difficult for residents in those areas to vote. We've seen thousands of legitimate absentee ballots suppressed because they didn't meet an "exact match" standard — an unjust requirement that violates the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act and as well as the First and 14th amendments.

It is well past time for the candidates to talk about how they will fix our broken political system. When the candidates take the stage at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, it will be the first time that they'll appear together with less than a year until Election Day.

This is no time for grandstanding and trying to create a debate "moment."

It's time for the remaining candidates to get serious about the task at hand. It's time for them to talk frankly about our country's greatest existential threat.

Moderators Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Kristen Welker and Ashley Parker are not representing debate hosts MSNBC and The Washington Post. They are standing in for all of us, their fellow citizens.

The moderators have a responsibility to ask the candidates: How will they protect and expand access to voter rights and ensure that everyone's voice is heard?

How will they stem the undue influence of wealthy and corporate interests in our elections?

How will they restore the checks and balances so important to our system of government?

Our democracy is under attack. How will these men and women defend it?

We’re all about the issues that have broken American democracy — and efforts to make governments work again for you, your family and your friends.
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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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