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See you in September

The Fulcrum newsroom will be closed through Labor Day. We'll be back in your inbox on Tuesday, September 3. In the meantime, here are some stories to check out. And keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter pages for even more content.

Timing is everything: Why 'off year' elections are a turnout buzz kill

The mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price, had an answer for her city's historically low turnout in local elections. She blamed the schools.

"Part of the problem is public schools aren't teaching civic engagement," she said during a mayoral debate in May, the election a few days away.

One of her challengers, though, blamed the press. "If the media would get more behind things and get a fire going, we'd have better turnout," James McBride said.

And another challenger blamed the politicians. "We have leaders who don't want people to come out and vote because they know a low voter turnout favors them," Deborah Peoples said.

Peoples, the local Democratic Party chairwoman, lost the election and Price, a Republican, won her fifth term. But the research on what influences turnout suggests it was Peoples who was onto something.

Keep reading...

The curious tale of the disappearing Election Day holiday bill

Making Election Day a new federal holiday has been one of the highest-profile parts of the Democrats' sweeping package for reforming elections, campaign finance and government ethics.

Plenty of prominent members of Congress such as Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who is in his 13th term and a committee chairman, praised the holiday provision when the House debated the bill this spring.

The Associated Press mentioned the holiday language in stories about passage of the legislation, known as HR 1. So did CNN, Fox News, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Leading good-government advocacy groups, including Public Citizen, shined a light on the possibility of a holiday in praising the measure's advancement.

And what do all of them have in common? They all got it wrong.

There is no such provision in HR 1 anymore.

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Expressing your anger at gerrymandering? There's a font for that.

Plenty of congressional districts get mocked for looking like parts of a Rorschach test. But only now have some creative folks conjured up the letters A through Z.

It was hard not to see "a rabbit on a skateboard" in last decade's map for Illinois, or "Goofy kicking Donald Duck" in the Philadelphia suburbs until a few years ago, or — most famously — a salamander slithering across Massachusetts in the 19th century map approved by Gov. Elbridge Gerry, which gave rise to the derisive term gerrymandering for such convoluted contouring.

But today's map of the House of Representatives, it turns out, contains an unsightly but still readily readable alphabet.

Redistricting reformers with a sense of humor, or at least looking for a fresh way to make their point, are welcome to go to UglyGerry.com and download the letters for free.

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Opinion

Time to reward every ballot's meaning in presidential elections

The Electoral College system makes it so voters in certain states don't truly see their votes counted, argues Barry Fadem of National Popular Vote. It's time for that to change.

Five reasons unlimited spending undermines American democracy

American Promise's Leah Field details five reasons unlimited spending hurts our government and why the so-called 28th Amendment is necessary.

All politics, and all political transformation, is local

Looking for political change? Eli Beckerman of Open the Debates says that it starts with you, at home in your community.

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Big Picture
Sara Swann/The Fulcrum

Congress and tech companies need to act fast (a decided long shot) to protect the 2020 election's integrity, Sen. Mark Warner told the conference.

Ample fear, zero silver bullets at campaign disinformation conference

The spread of disinformation online promises to be one of the biggest threats to American democracy during the 2020 election and beyond, if no action is taken. But efforts to defend against these falsehoods remains hamstrung by partisanship.

Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub called disinformation "a fundamental assault on democracy" during a digital disinformation symposium this week at FEC headquarters in Washington.

Weintraub, along with PEN America and the Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University, invited politicians, government officials, tech companies, academics and media representatives to the symposium to discuss disinformation and how to combat it. There were no ready answers.

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Government Ethics

A new report from the Coalition for Integrity scored states based on the transparency of their ethics enforcement.

Report: Few states shine in their transparency of ethics enforcement

Only a handful of states earned high marks in a new report analyzing the enforcement power and transparency of state ethics agencies.

The researchers behind "Enforcement of Ethics Rules by State Agencies" surveyed 2018 enforcement statistics for every state ethics agency and scored states by how well those agencies made their actions publicly available. The study was released last week by the nonprofit Coalition for Integrity, which works to combat corruption in both governments and business.

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