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Balance of Power

Allow us to punish faithless electors, nearly half the states ask Supreme Court

There are now 23 states asking the Supreme Court to answer a basic question about the process of electing the president: Can they bind a member of the Electoral College to vote for the state's popular vote winner?

A group of 22 states on Wednesday asked the court to take up a case involving a so-called faithless elector in Colorado, who was dismissed and replaced in 2016 after refusing to vote for Hilary Clinton even though she won the state's popular vote. The elector challenged his dismissal in a lawsuit, which a lower court allowed to move forward.

The brief from Colorado's allies argues the court should reverse that decision, effectively giving a green light for states to enforce laws that require an elector to cast their votes for the candidate who carries their state. Thirty-two states have such laws.


Without guidance from the court, the Colorado case "creates considerable uncertainty regarding the authority of states when appointing presidential electors and the validity of laws binding electors to follow the will of the electorate," said the brief from the 22 state attorneys general.

The justices are also considering a case centered on three 2016 electors who got punished for their faithlessness by the state of Washington and want the court to rule that such binding laws are unconstitutional.

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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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