A long quest has formally begun to add battleground Nevada to the roster of states where the election districts are drawn by non-politicians.
Advocates for ending partisan gerrymandering nationwide filed a proposed state constitutional amendment on Monday with officials in Carson City. It would create an independent commission to draw both state legislative and congressional districts — with a mandate they be geographically compact, give minorities a fair shot at representation and be as "politically competitive" between the major parties as possible.
The earliest that could happen is four years from now, however. That's because, even if advocates gather the necessary 98,000 signatures by June to put the measure on next November's ballot, and even if it succeeds then, a second statewide vote reaffirming the first one is required in 2022 before the new panel could get to work.
The prospects for ranked-choice voting are uncertain in a handful of states that had shown momentum as the fall begins and the 2020 campaign shifts into a more intense gear.
Just days ago, the future looked brighter for one of the more revolutionary parts of the democracy reform agenda, which seeks in part to grow consensus-building and shrink polarization in politics: holding elections where voters list all the candidates they can live with in order of preference, with the winner often emerging as a person ranked close to the top on the most number of ballots.
The biggest potential setback since has come in Iowa, where Democrats hoped to couple a debut for ranked-choice voting in presidential elections with the rollout of online participation in the 2020 caucuses.
But last week national party leaders rejected the proposals from Iowa and Nevada to allow remote participation, concluding that concerns the fledgling systems could be hacked outweighed the desire to make it easier for people to participate.
If you use the telephone to declare your presidential preference, have you really participated in your party's caucuses?
Yes, say the Democrats of Iowa and Nevada, where next winter's caucuses will be crucial to winnowing the sprawling field of candidates into a handful with a genuine shot at getting nominated to take on President Trump.
In both bellwether contests, where human contact has been a central part of the process for years, it will no longer be necessary to join an evening of last-minute jawboning and deal-cutting before casting a ballot in an overheated church basement or high school cafeteria. A Democratic loyalist will be able to, quite literally, phone it in.
The tele-caucusing innovations were announced by party officials in Nevada on Monday, when the Democratic National Committee signaled its endorsement of the plan unveiled a few months ago in Iowa, home of the first contest. The states are also part of the first experiments with ranked-choice voting at the presidential level.
Sometime in the next few days, 45-year-old Milton Thomas of Nashville is going to pick up his mail and find something that symbolizes another step in his ongoing journey toward being a productive citizen.
It's his voter registration card.
Thomas lost his right to vote when he was convicted of a drug-related felony – one of an estimated 6 million people nationwide disenfranchised because of felony convictions.
His return to the voting rolls is just one example of a slowly expanding nationwide movement to restore voting rights for convicted felons – one that has sometimes sparked controversy and also made for unusual political alliances.