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Senate Democrats launch non-starter bid to close Electoral College

Four Democratic senators have introduced a constitutional amendment that would abolish the Electoral College, an idea that's gaining traction among the party's progressives even though it has essentially no chance of happening.

Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand of New York signed on to the proposal Tuesday along with party whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, top Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinstein of California and Brian Schatz of Hawaii.

The Electoral College has been the focus of anger and frustration mainly on the political left and especially since President Trump won the presidency in 2016 by winning 306 electoral votes while losing the popular vote by 2.9 million ballots, a margin of 2 percentage points.

But a constitutional change would require two-third majorities in both the House and Senate and the support of 38 states — a non-starter given the nation's current political balance of power. Instead, most advocates of making the popular will dispositive in national campaigns are focused on the getting states to commit their electoral votes to the national popular vote winner.

So far states with 184 votes in the Electoral College have enacted laws committing themselves to the so-called National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which only would take effect after states combining for more than a dispositive 270 electoral votes have signed on. Legislatures in another five states, with 32 electoral votes combined, have a plausible chance of signing on in the next year. But all the states committed or moving toward the compact so far are reliably Democratic or leaning that way.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a trio of democracy reform bills this week.

California governor signs three political reform bills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Tuesday three democracy reform bills focused on local redistricting, voting access and campaign contributions.

The first piece of legislation prohibits partisan gerrymandering at the local level by establishing criteria for cities and counties to use when adjusting district boundaries. While California is the largest state to use an independent redistricting commission to draw its congressional and state district maps, local districts did not have the same regulations.

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Gov. Ralph Northam used his executive authority to restore voting rights for felons, noting that Virginia is among the states that permanently strips such rights after a felony conviction.

Virginia governor restores voting rights to over 22,000 felons

More than 22,000 Virginians with felony convictions have regained the right to vote thanks to executive actions taken by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam since he took office in January 2018, his office announced this week.

In a statement, Northam's office said he has so far restored the civil rights of 22,205 people who had been convicted of felonies and have since completed their sentences. Those civil rights include the right to vote as well as the right to serve on juries, run for public office and become a notary public.

Northam previously announced in February that nearly 11,000 convicted felons had their voting rights restored under his watch.

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