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Mail-in ballots await counting in Modesto, Calif., during the 2018 general election.

Suit challenges subjective system for rejecting Texas mail-in ballots

Election officials in Texas, the nation's second largest state and one that's rapidly becoming politically competitive, are being sued by voters and advocacy groups who say the way they reject mail-in ballots is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in San Antonio by two voters and groups who advocate for the disabled, older and disabled veterans, people in jail, and young voters on college campuses.

People in all of those groups tend to make extensive use of mail-in ballots, not only in Texas but across the country. And litigating to ease the rules for this type of voting is becoming an increasing popular tactic for those pushing for better access to the ballot box.

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Citizens Redistricting Commission

The 14-person Citizens Redistricting Commission managed California's redistricting for the first time in 2011. Nearly 14,000 people have applied for one of the seats for the post-2020 remapping process.

Surge of interest by would-be citizen mapmakers in California

So many people want to draw the political boundaries for the nation's biggest state that California's Citizens Redistricting Commission application deadline has been extended.

State Auditor Elaine Howle, who is in charge of an extraordinarily complex process for selecting the 14 "ordinary citizen" commissioners, set a new deadline of Aug. 19 after reporting she's received 13,735 applications in eight weeks — and that the papers are now coming in at a rate of 1,000 a day.

"Many more Californians who are learning more about redistricting and are developing an interest in the opportunity may now want to take advantage of the chance to draw California's congressional and state legislative district lines," she said in announcing the extension.

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Voting
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Utah disproves the myth that voting at home is a ploy of the political left, writes McReynolds.

Myth-busting the top 10 objections to 'vote at home' systems

McReynolds is executive director of the National Vote at Home Institute, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to expanding voting by mail-out ballot.

During this year's state legislative sessions, we saw nice progress, but also a number of myths, unfounded fears and outright falsehoods about "vote at home" or "vote by mail" election systems, in which all or most voters in a state or county are sent ballots in the mail and not required to go to traditional polling places.

For starters, VAH critics often ignore the reality that all 50 states already use this voting method at some level (aka absentee ballots). And objections often get presented in a vacuum, ignoring how traditional "polling-place-centric" methods have major inherent disadvantages.

Polling-place-centric elections poorly serve millions. Think about older or disabled voters unable to get to the polls; rural voters far from a polling place; first responders whose schedules can be preempted; parents working two jobs; families with sick children; students and many others with real-life issues that prevent voting in a fixed place, within a limited window of time.

Polling-place models also suffer from execution problems that can disenfranchise large swaths of eligible voters, both innocent and not always so: missing power cords for the machines, malfunctioning machines, poll workers who forgot the keys, long lines where voters give up and go home, voters told their registration is not valid, voters without "proper" ID and polling places far removed from some communities.

But well-implemented VAH models enable all to cast their ballots on their terms and timelines, while providing more days and more ways to vote, including in-person options. And if a close election demands a recount, VAH systems have paper ballots for every vote cast.

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Trio of cities advance anti-corruption measures

The government reform movement is gaining traction in some of America's biggest cities. Corruption investigations involving public officials in Chicago, Baltimore and Los Angeles have prompted changes, or proposed changes, to everything from campaign finance rules to the authority of individual city council members.

On Monday, Lori Lightfoot was sworn in as Chicago's new mayor and immediately called for changing the culture of what has long been considered one of the most corrupt cities in the country. In her inaugural address, Lightfoot acknowledged that "putting Chicago government and integrity in the same sentence is ... well ... a little strange."

"For years, they've said Chicago ain't ready for reform," she said. "Well, get ready because reform is here."

The former federal prosecutor's first action was to sign an executive order ending the practice of aldermanic prerogative, which gave each council member control over almost every action by a city department in his or her district. Also called aldermanic privilege, the issue came to the forefront earlier this year when longtime Alderman Edward Burke was charged with attempted extortion for allegedly trying to shake down two businessmen seeking to renovate a Burger King in his ward.

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