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Spending on this year's ballot measure efforts the highest in a decade

Ballot measure campaigns spent more money to qualify for the ballot this year than at any other time in the past decade.

The coronavirus is the reason. Gathering signatures for these measures was extraordinarily challenging, and only a few places changed their rules (or were forced to by the courts) to extend deadlines or to allow for online collection.

As a result, only 43 measures have qualified for the ballot in November, the smallest roster since 2014.

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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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North Dakota court boots wide-ranging reform measure from ballot

A sweeping election reform measure has been removed from the November ballot following a North Dakota Supreme Court ruling Tuesday.

The measure would have established an independent redistricting commission as well as other changes to the election process, if approved by voters. But the high court agreed with a lawsuit that claimed voters had been misled during the signature gathering process.

This year's general election is the last opportunity for some states to approve redistricting reforms before election maps are redrawn next year. The court's decision means North Dakota's legislative districts will remain subject to partisan gerrymandering for another decade. (The state's sole seat in the U.S. House isn't subject to remapping.)

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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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