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Public and GOP lawmakers at odds on voting rights in Tennessee

New polling suggests that the lopsidedly Republican legislature of Tennessee is out of step with the voters on expanding and easing access to the voting booth.

Two out of three people in the state back the idea of automatically registering every eligible voter when they get a driver's licenses or interact with other state agencies, a process now in effect in 15 states. And 74 percent support the restoration of voting rights for Tennesseans with certain felony convictions upon the completion of their sentences.

The statewide poll was conducted by Vanderbilt University, with roughly 1,000 individuals contacted May 9-23.

Legislation to increase the pool of felons who can regain the right to vote in Tennessee, which has one of the nation's strictest policies on the topic, did not get far in the legislature this year. Neither did a bill to institute automatic voter registration. Instead, one of the most high-profile measures enacted this session appears to make Tennessee the first state to impose fines on voter registration groups for turning in too many incomplete or inaccurate signup forms, while also imposing significant new requirements for registration campaigns.



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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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