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Ohio’s reliably Republican House map goes on trial

A trial has started in a federal lawsuit alleging Ohio's congressional map is such a partisan gerrymander that it unconstitutionally violates voters' rights to elect people who share their views.

A win by the plaintiffs – led by several Democratic organizations and the League of Women Voters of Ohio – could mean reconfiguring of the bellwether state's districts in time for the 2020 election, presumably giving Democrats a shot at winning more than the four seats (out of 16) they've been limited to for the entire decade.

In opening arguments Tuesday, Alora Thomas of the American Civil Liberties Union told a three-judge panel that, since 2012, all but five of the 64 House contests were won with at least 55 percent of the vote – the traditional marker for identifying seats as reliably safe for one party or the other. Ohio has the seventh biggest delegation, and in each of the bigger states Democrats picked up at least one seat in last year's midterm on the way to retaking control of the House.

"This is called democracy in action," attorney Phil Strach argued for the Republican state officials acting as the defendants. He argued that the map drawn for this decade was the product of a bipartisan deal where both sides were mainly interested in protecting the fortunes of the incumbents in office at the time.

Anyone who thinks the courts will "fix polarization" in politics "is sadly mistaken," he added.

Testimony is likely to last two weeks, with former Speaker John Boehner on the witness list of his fellow Ohio Republicans. But no matter what the outcome, the resolution will be short lived. The state seems sure to lose a House seat after the next census, so its map for the 2020s will have to be significantly reconfigured.

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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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