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Prominent Republican speaks out against Texas bill to punish voter registration errors

Legislation to criminalize errors on voter registration forms has become the most polarizing political process measure advancing through the Republican-run Texas Legislature this year. Now the down-the-line partisan divide has been broken.

Republican Trey Grayson, Kentucky's former secretary of state and top elections official, is urging the Texas House to abandon or seriously modify the bill, which the state Senate passed last month amid cries from Democrats that the goal was disenfranchisement of the poor and elderly. He says it will scare thousands of honest citizens away from the political process out of fear an error on newly complicated paperwork could result in a felony conviction and prison time.

"Texas policymakers ought to be focused on modernizing and securing our elections so that everyone who's eligible to vote can vote and only eligible votes count," Grayson told the San Antonio Current after a round of lobbying in Austin, and the bill "unfortunately, doesn't advance those things."

Whatever changes Texas makes to its democratic systems have national implications, not only because it's now the second-most populous state but also because its changing demographics are recoloring the electoral map from deep Republican "red" into electoral bellwether purple.

Grayson chairs the Secure Elections Project, an advocacy group tied to the bipartisan Center for Secure and Modern Elections, which also is skeptical of the bill. He has also run the Harvard Institute of Politics and was Mitch McConnell's choice for the Senate seat won by Rand Paul in 2010.

His party's fixation with making it harder to vote, he said, is a strategically bad idea because "We're sending a message to voters that we can't win on our own."

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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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