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Fix the Court

Fix the Court is a national, nonpartisan organization that advocates for non-ideological "fixes" that would make the federal courts, and primarily the U.S. Supreme Court, more open and more accountable to the American people.

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Rhode Islanders will not be required to get witnesses to sign their mail-in ballots this fall.

Supreme Court upholds easier R.I. voting, breaking a string of rebuffs

The Supreme Court for the first time on Thursday came down on the side of relaxing a burden on voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

But the justices made clear their decision — which will allow Rhode Islanders to vote absentee without a witness this fall — was a purposeful exception to their reasoning in an unbroken string of seven rulings since the spring, each of which has kept the exercise of democracy difficult in the face of a public health crisis.

Unlike the other cases, where a state was fighting easements to its rules, Rhode Island officials had already agreed to settle a lawsuit by relaxing its unusually strict mail-in requirements for the September primary and general election. That left the Republican Party, which sued to reverse the deal on the grounds it would promote election cheating, no legal leg to stand on, the court said.

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Big Picture
Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Montana's tough donor disclosure law survives at Supreme Court

Oregon remapping bid dies at Supreme Court, now 0-7 on easing democracy during Covid

The Supreme Court has extended its unbroken string of rulings against making it easier to be part of the democratic process during the pandemic.

The justices on Tuesday blocked a lower court's ruling that it should be easier for Oregon's redistricting reform advocates to collect signatures during the national health crisis. The decision means there won't be a referendum on the November ballot that would take the power to draw congressional and legislative maps away from the Democratic powers in Salem and turn it over to a new citizens' redistricting commission — the top goal of crusaders against partisan gerrymandering.

It's the latest of seven cases since this spring where the conservative-majority high court has ruled against groups seeking relaxed ballot rules because of the coronavirus. It has not ruled once in favor of such an effort.

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Congress
C-SPAN

Texas Republican Ted Cruz reading "Green Eggs and Ham" during a Senate filibuster in 2013.

TV coverage of the Senate may reduce its effectiveness

Televising every moment of the Senate's proceedings is a wonderful monument to government transparency, one that brings corruption-scrubbing sunshine to the self-proclaimed world's greatest deliberative body. Right?

Perhaps, but it's more complicated than that. Newly published research concludes gavel-to-gavel coverage of Congress has reduced substantive debate, heightened partisanship and increased the amount of time members spend on posturing and self-promotion.

The report is the second in recent days detailing what's underpinning the dysfunction of the Capitol, at a time when legislative branch weakness is widely viewed among the main threats to democracy. In the other, former members of Congress painted a dire picture of their former workplace, saying it is ill-equipped to rally even in emergencies such as the current coronavirus pandemic and economic collapse.

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Big Picture

Podcast playlist: The people who choose the president

Podcast: The people who choose the president

Three weeks ago the Supreme Court decided what had once seemed like an obscure corner of constitutional law, but which might have huge ramifications for this year's presidential election and beyond: The court ruled unanimously that states could punish or remove members of the Electoral College who refuse to vote for the candidate they were pledged to support.

The "faithless elector" decision is the topic of the latest installment of our podcast partnership with The Democracy Group, a podcast network at Penn State University, to share thought-provoking discussions about efforts to fix the American political system.

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