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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a trio of democracy reform bills this week.

California governor signs three political reform bills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Tuesday three democracy reform bills focused on local redistricting, voting access and campaign contributions.

The first piece of legislation prohibits partisan gerrymandering at the local level by establishing criteria for cities and counties to use when adjusting district boundaries. While California is the largest state to use an independent redistricting commission to draw its congressional and state district maps, local districts did not have the same regulations.

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Big Picture
Jordan Peele uses AI, President Obama in fake news PSA

Deepfakers beware: Do it in California or Texas and you'll be in deep trouble

California has decided to throw a flag on people who post deepfake videos of candidates running for public office.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation that prohibits distribution of these artificially created or manipulated videos within 60 days of an election unless the video carries a statement disclosing it has been altered. Texas enacted a similar law late last month.

That the nation's most populous state, where lawmaking power is entirely in Democrats' hands, would mirror a new policy in the third-largest state, formulated entirely by Republicans, is a clear indictor that the new world of deepfakes is causing big-time bipartisan worry among politicians. But some experts question whether the laws will survive legal challenges.

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California is one of 16 states that automatically registers people to vote when they conduct business with state agencies like the DMV.

GOP lawsuit says California voter registration is porous to non-citizens

California's automatic voter registration system is violating federal law by not verifying the citizenship of applicants, a Republican attorney alleges in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court.

The suit challenges a system that's meant to boost civic engagement by adding eligible people to the rolls whenever they visit the Department of Motor Vehicles. So-called AVR is also in place in 15 other states and congressional Democrats are all behind legislation to make it the national standard.

But the system in the nation's most populous state has faced several problems since its implementation in April 2018, most of which California officials have ascribed to technology failures. Six ineligible people voted in the June congressional primaries and two of them went on to vote in the November midterm. And the DMV reported it made 105,000 registration errors between the launch and Election Day.

The suit, filed by attorney Harmeet Dhillon on behalf of a group of Republican voters, wants to compel the DMV to provide election administrators with more records that can prove citizenship and eligibility.

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Courtesy Peter Miller

Research Peter Miller found that public comments can have a significant impact on redistricting decisions.

What to say (and not to say) if you're a regular citizen hoping to shape redistricting

Can the public influence the drawing of legislative districts?

That's what graduate student Peter Miller wanted to know when he drove to Long Beach City Hall for a public hearing on redistricting.

Seventy-two people spoke at the April 2011 meeting, often offering the same request: Combine the Port of Long Beach and the city of Long Beach into a single congressional district.

The reason? Winds carry pollution from the port, one of the busiest in the country, into Long Beach itself, and residents wanted their House member to be responsive to those environmental concerns. California's commission of citizen line drawers pulled up the map and agreed. The port and city have been represented by the same person ever since.

The result of that session in Long Beach underscores how regular citizens can shape a process that's gotten an awful reputation as dominated by professional partisans. It also provides reason for optimism in light of the Supreme Court's ruling this summer that federal courts have no power to decide when the politicians have gone too far in picking their voters — and as public hearings have begun in some states in advance of the nation's political remapping for the 2020s.

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