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Ohio's congressional map is impermissibly partisan, federal judges rule

Ohio's congressional map is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, a panel of three federal judges ruled unanimously on Friday.

The decision only heightens the landmark nature of the decision due next month from the Supreme Court. It is poised to either conclude that drawing electoral districts for partisan gain is not something the courts should interfere with, or else set a nationwide standard for when redistricting becomes so poisoned by political power plays that the voters' free speech or free association rights are violated.

Ohio becomes the fourth state where House district maps have been struck down by a court as impermissibly punishing one party's voters to benefit the other side. The maps in North Carolina, drawn to favor the Republicans, and in Maryland, drawn to benefit the Democrats, are before the Supreme Court. A panel of federal judges in Michigan this month struck down that state's map, at least until the high court ruling. Two years ago, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said that state's map was unconstitutionally politicized by the GOP and compelled that it get remade so Democrats could contest more seats in the 2018 midterm.

Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan are all politically purple and the overall votes for Congress have been split almost evenly in this decade. But Ohio's map has consistently produced a delegation of 12 Republicans and just four Democrats.

Attorneys for the Republicans who ran the mapmaking process at the start of the decade said they collaborated with the Democrats with the main objectives of protecting incumbents at a time the state lost two House seats. But the judges – one named by Bill Clinton, one by Barack Obama and one by George W. Bush – rejected that argument and ordered the state to come up with a more politically balanced map by June 20, likely before the Supreme Court ruling.

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Open Government
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FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub

The struggle is real: FEC stalled on regulations for online political ads

The Federal Election Commission has once again punted on establishing rules for identifying who is sponsoring online political advertisements. Thursday marked the fourth consecutive meeting in which the topic fell to the wayside without a clear path forward.

FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub revived debate on the topic in June when she introduced a proposal on how to regulate online political ads. In her proposal, she said the growing threat of misinformation meant that requiring transparency for political ads was "a small but necessary step."

Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen and Commissioner Caroline Hunter put forth their own proposal soon after Weintraub, but the commissioners have failed to find any middle ground. At Thursday's meeting, a decision on the agenda item was pushed off to a later date.

Weintraub's proposal says the funding source should be clearly visible on the face of the ad, with some allowance for abbreviations. But Petersen and Hunter want to allow more flexibility for tiny ads that cannot accommodate these disclaimers due to space.

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Open Government
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California's Supreme Court is expediting President Trump's challenge to a new state law that would require him to release five years of tax returns in order to get on the state ballot for the 2020 election.

California court expedites Trump challenge to new tax returns requirement

The California Supreme Court is fast-tracking its review of a challenge to a new law that would require President Trump to make public his tax returns in order to get on the state's ballot for the 2020 election.

A lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the law was filed August 6 by the California Republican Party against Secretary of State Alex Padilla. It claims the law violates California's constitution.

Two other challenges, one filed by Trump's personal lawyers, are pending in federal court.

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