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The State of Reform
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Download Unite America's free report analyzing the impact of four key political reforms.
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Absentee voting fight pressed anew in three Southern states

Thanks to the pandemic and the coming surge of absentee voting, several swing states have already been compelled to grant extra time for ballots to arrive by mail. North Carolina joined this roster Tuesday.

To settle one from the blizzard of lawsuits pushed by Democrats, the state not only extended that deadline on Tuesday but also agreed to allow voters a chance to correct procedural mistakes with their absentee ballots.

The double-barrel agreement came as a fresh federal lawsuit was seeking to make Arkansas give its voters a similar "ballot curing" option, while Republicans appealed a federal judge's extension for mailed ballots in Georgia.

As the record wave of litigation continues to roil preparations six weeks from Election Day, these are the details of the latest developments:

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Arkansas redistricting reform blocked from November ballot

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday blocked a redistricting reform measure from the November ballot, dashing the hopes of anti-gerrymandering advocates who hoped to achieve multiple wins this fall.

Siding with Republican Secretary of State John Thurston, the high court rejected the petition submitted last month by Arkansas Voters First because of an error with the state-mandated criminal background checks for petition canvassers.

That leaves Virginia as the only state left with a redistricting reform measure on the ballot. Reformers in other states had pushed anti-gerrymandering initiatives this year, but they ultimately fell short of signature thresholds or were defeated in court. These campaigns represented the last change for meaningful change until 2030, as states will begin their decennial mapmaking process next year.

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A handful of states are in the final stretch to get anti-gerrymandering measures on the November ballot.

Four states inch closer to redistricting reform

Four states are on the cusp of approving anti-gerrymandering petitions for the November ballot, but challenges still remain.

Putting independent commissions, rather than politicians, in charge of drawing district maps is widely regarded as the most effective way to combat partisan gerrymandering. Next year, following the census, 14 states will use such commissions to draw state legislative districts, and eight will do so for congressional districts.

Getting on the November ballot and leaving it up to the voters is the last chance Arkansas, Nevada, North Dakota and Oregon have to make the switch to an independent redistricting commission before maps are redrawn for the new decade. But the Covid-19 pandemic has made gathering signatures to qualify for the ballot especially difficult.

Here are updates on redistricting reform campaigns in those states.

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Gov. Asa Hutchinson has not made clear his view of absentee ballot excuse limits during the pandemic.

Court rejects bid to open Arkansas mail voting to all

A lawsuit seeking to require Arkansas to permit everyone to vote by mail has been dismissed after less than a month.

The state is one of 16 that requires people to claim a specific excuse in order to get an absentee ballot. An unusually argued challenge to the requirements was filed four weeks ago, long after the state's primaries but as the number of coronavirus cases was starting to surge across the South.

A state court dismissed the suit Tuesday on the grounds the plaintiffs, led by two prominent former Democratic state officials, could not possibly have been harmed by the rules. But Judge Wendell Griffen did not address their central argument.

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