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A party-line vote in the Republican Senate put conservative Texas attorney Trey Trainor on the Federal Election Commission.

Campaign watchdog agency can reopen — but has no new ability to function

After 262 days in limbo, the Federal Election Commission can operate again. But a toxic mix of partisanship and the agency's own rules provides little hope the campaign finance regulator will soon function.

The doors can symbolically reopen because the Senate voted Tuesday, 49-43 along party lines, to confirm conservative Texas attorney Trey Trainor as a commissioner — ending the longest period ever when the panel lacked the four-person quorum required to conduct business.

But it also takes four votes to do anything consequential. And the even partisan split Trainor creates means the FEC is returning to its life for the past decade — at an impasse on almost every question about enforcing the limited laws of money in politics. The persistent deadlock is one of the main reasons the campaign finance system is derided by critics as out of control.

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Arkansas Department of Transformation and Shared Services

Arkansas anti-gerrymander group joins fight for relief from signature rules

Redistricting reformers in Arkansas are the latest to ask the courts to relax petition signature requirements in the time of coronavirus.

Arkansas Voters First filed a lawsuit Wednesday asking a federal judge to loosen the state's rules given the unprecedented circumstances.

While much of the focus at the intersection of democracy and the pandemic has centered on delayed primaries and altered rules for the November presidential contest, the plight of grassroots groups to register voters and get their measures on the ballot has also intensified.

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mapchart.net

Michigan's 14th congressional district was designed to pack Democratic voters from Pontiac and Detroit into one convoluted district.

Michigan​ redistricting commission gets appeals court's green light

In a huge win for the opponents of partisan gerrymandering, a federal appeals court has quashed a well-funded legal challenge from the right to Michigan's new independent redistricting commission.

The requirements for sitting on the panel, designed to limit the number of even potentially partisan players, were upheld as constitutional Wednesday by a unanimous 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Republicans maintain the criteria violate free speech and equal protection rights of would-be public servants.

Unless the Supreme Court decides to step in, which for the moment looks unlikely, the panel will be created in time to draw new congressional and legislative seats after the 2020 census. Michigan will be the second-biggest, after California, of the 13 states where at least some mapmaking will be done by such a nonpartisan commission.

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