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Senate Democrats unite behind their version of HR 1

All 47 Democratic senators, including the six running for president, signed on to legislation introduced today that mirrors the campaign finance, election administration and ethics overhaul passed by the House this month.

Their unanimity has no utilitarian effect, because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear he'll never put the bill to a vote and not one of his fellow Republicans (let alone the 13 necessary) has even hinted at breaking ranks to advance the bill over his opposition.

But the Democrats who announced the bill made clear that, at least until the next election, they are more content to make a political point than to make a new law.

"This is the bill I think we should use as our talking points across the country when people are running for president or running for Congress," said Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, the only one of the presidential aspirants to attend the news conference unveiling the bill. "This is the whole collection of what we need to do, from taking the dark money out to making it easier to vote."

The measure's principal sponsor, Tom Udall of New Mexico, conceded that his options for advancing his cause were limited before he retires at the end of next year. At best, he said, he might be able to put all senators on record by securing a vote on an amendment that would attach the bill to the annual budget resolution, a purely symbolic move because the budget measure does not have the force of law.

Udall's office described his measure as "a near identical copy" of HR 1, the measure the House passed three weeks ago on a party line vote of 234-193. Among the bill's most prominent features are the re-enfranchisement of felons after their release from prison, the lowering of barriers to voting across the country, the creation of public matching funds for candidates who raised money from others in small donations, a tougher code of ethics for the executive branch and a mandate that all states turn their congressional mapmaking over to nonpartisan commissions.

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We can and must embrace our diversity as the operating system of our nation, write the leaders of the Bridge Alliance.

Diverse people must be in every room where decisions are made

Molineaux and Nevins are co-founders of the Bridge Alliance, a coalition of 100 democracy strengthening organizations. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)

As we look to history, it has always been the mystics and scientists, innovators and outliers who saw the future most clearly and acted to push — or call — society forward, to awaken from our slumber of the way things are and envision a better future. The stories of their personal transformation inspire us to be better individually and collectively. With this inspiration, we can and must transform our nation into a more perfect union.

As co-founders of the Bridge Alliance, we are inspired and challenged by the problems facing our country. Our 100 member organizations work daily to protect the ideals of our American Dream so we can create healthy self-governance that has never fully existed before. Our members work to harness the tension of our differences as we enact our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, balancing individual and community needs.

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Tech. Sgt. Jeff Kelly/U.S. Air Force

The Federal Voting Assistance Program assists military members who need to vote via absentee ballot. A spokeswoman for the Defense Department said there would be "minimal disruptions" if the United States pulls out of the international postage agency.

Costs to mail ballots may skyrocket for civilians, military living overseas

Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration's trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections.

The issue is the pending withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union, a group of 192 nations that has governed international postal service and rates for 145 years.

Last October, the U.S. gave the required one-year notice stating it would leave the UPU unless changes were made to the discounted fees that China pays for shipping small packages to the United States. The subsidized fees — established years ago to help poor, developing countries — place American businesses at a disadvantage and don't cover costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service.

With the U.S.-imposed deadline for withdrawal or new rates fast approaching, states officials are running out of time to prepare for overseas mail-in voting.

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