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Republicans held a majority of Michigan's congressional district through the 2010s, until Democrats achieved a split in 2018. (Rep. Justin Amash's 3rd District is shaded purple, since he left the Republican Party.)

Michigan’s new curb on partisan mapmakers survives in federal court

Michigan may continue planning for its new voter-mandated independent redistricting commission, a federal judge has ruled, because Republicans are not likely to win their lawsuit alleging the panel's membership requirements are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Janet Neff on Monday rejected the GOP's bid to stop implementation of a state constitutional amendment approved last fall.

In one of the biggest victories ever for opponents of partisan gerrymandering, 61 percent of voters decided to take the drawing of the next decade's legislative and congressional lines away from the Legislature and give it to a new panel — where a plurality must be without political connections or activities on their resume.

The Michigan GOP and several individual Republicans say those restrictions on membership limit their rights to free speech and free association. No party officials, lobbyists, consultants or any of their relatives may sit in five of the 13 seats; the others are split between Republicans and Democrats.

Neff, who was picked for the court in Grand Rapids by President George W. Bush, sent a clear signal where her formal ruling would come down. "The eligibility provisions at issue do not impose severe burdens on plaintiffs' First Amendment rights," she wrote. "There is no right to state office or appointment."

Republican officials signaled they would keep pursuing their arguments, either in this case or another federal lawsuit alleging the membership limits violate federal antidiscrimination laws.

Republicans drew the current boundaries ahead of the 2012 elections and they worked mostly as designed, with comfortable GOP control of the state House and Senate through the decade and a GOP majority in the congressional delegation until last fall, when the Democratic midterm wave produced at 7-7 split.

Thousands have already asked for a seat on the new commission, where the pay will be $40,000.The deadline for applying is June 1.

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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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