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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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Election security efforts should be expanded to cover the vendors who provide the equipment and other systems used to record and count votes, according to a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice. Here a Miami-Dade County election worker checks voting machines for accuracy.

Election equipment vendors should face more security oversight, report argues

Efforts to fend off election hackers in 2020 and beyond have revolved around protecting ballot equipment and the databases of registered voters. Little attention has been focused on the vendors and their employees.

But the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice is proposing that the vendors who make election equipment and related systems be subjected to heightened oversight and vetting, much like defense contractors or others involved in national security.

"There is almost no federal regulation of the vendors that design and maintain the systems that allow us to determine who can vote, how they vote, or how their votes are counted and reported," according to a new report from the nonpartisan policy institute.

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