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Rachel Millman

Rachel and Bob Millman in Lock Haven, Penn., with a copy of a teaser trailer for their documentary "Line in the Street."

A father-daughter film underscores states' rights to bar partisan maps

When judges in North Carolina last week struck down the state's legislative maps, a potential watershed in the fight against partisan gerrymandering, the moment felt particularly familiar to moviemaker Bob Millman.

That's because he and his daughter Rachel Millman spent two years documenting a similar and also successful fight against the overtly political contours of a congressional map for Pennsylvania.

Their resulting film, "Line in the Street," debuted last year and is getting additional attention now the North Carolina map has joined the Pennsylvania map in the trash — and both for the same reasons.

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San Francisco uses ranked-choice voting for its elections. According to Daley and Richie, RCV encourages a more civil race and gives candidates incentives to reach beyond their own base.

Ranked-choice voting has momentum and a track record of success

Daley is a senior fellow at FairVote, a nonpartisan electoral reform organization. Richie is FairVote's president and CEO.

Kansas Democrats wanted to increase participation in their May 2020 presidential contest and make the balloting fairer for everyone. The state's 2016 caucus seemed to go on forever: There were hours upon hours of speeches, followed by the laborious process of dividing into groups for each candidate and being counted one by one. Only then could participants begin often hours-long drives home.

Maine voters sought to protect their state's longstanding tradition of independent candidates and vigorous third parties, while also ensuring that winning candidates had genuine majority support. Nine of the state's last 11 governors, including Democrats, Republicans and independents, and dating back to the 1970s, won with a mere plurality. They wanted to retain all their choices, but also elect the winner with the widest backing.

Eastpointe, Mich., meanwhile, wanted to ensure that black voters elected their fair share of city government seats. The city needed to resolve a Voting Rights Act complaint filed by the Department of Justice that alleged Eastpointe's practice of electing local offices through citywide elections prevented black people – almost one-third of the population -- from winning. No black candidates had been elected to the city council or school board there prior to the DOJ complaint.

New York, the nation's largest city, also had a problem with representative elections. Since 2009, according to Common Cause, two-thirds of all primaries with more than two candidates were won by a candidate with less than 50 percent support. The city's new public advocate captured the office with just a third.

They all hit on the same solution: ranked-choice voting. Now everyone seems to be taking notice. Indeed, at least some voters in at least 25 states are now slated to cast RCV ballots in upcoming elections and primaries.

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Andrew Burton via Getty Images News

A woman exits a Harlem voting booth during the 2013 mayoral primary.

New York City will decide if ranked-choice voting will make it there

Ranked-choice voting will step out onto another prominent stage this year: The people of the nation's largest city will decide in November whether the innovative and controversial system will be used for primaries and special elections.

The commission charged with updating New York City's charter, the equivalent of a constitution, voted 13-1 on Wednesday in favor of switching to a multiple-choice approach to municipal balloting.

If the voters agree, it would be the most prominent victory to date for advocates of ranked choice voting. Not only is New York home to 8.6 million people, but it's also the home of most media organizations driving the national political conversation. So an embrace of ranked-choice voting there could elevate its acceptance even more, and earlier, than its debut in the 2020 Democratic nominating processes in at least six states.

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Democrats push for automatic voter registration in Wisconsin, New York

Progressive lawmakers in Wisconsin and New York want to make voting easier for their constituents by creating automatic registration systems.

In Wisconsin, funding for automatic voter registration was removed from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' budget by Republicans, but some liberal legislators are still fighting. They have introduced a bill that would automatically register residents when they receive or renew their driver's licenses or state ID cards, Wisconsin Public Radio reports.

New York Democrats are also pushing for automatic voter registration. On Thursday, state lawmakers will hear input from experts and officials on the logistics of creating an AVR system, per the New York Daily News. Earlier this session, Democrats in Albany took advantage of their control of both legislative chambers by passing other voter-friendly bills with the hopes of boosting state election participation.

Wisconsin and New York join a growing state-led movement to implement automatic voter registration. Over the past five years, 15 states and the District of Columbia have adopted AVR — most through partnerships with state agencies, such as the Department of Motor Vehicles.

After adopting automatic registration systems, these states have seen significant increases to their voting populations, according to research conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice. Washington, D.C., saw the most modest growth, with a registration bump of 9.4 percent. Georgia, on the other hand, had its voting population skyrocket by 93.7 percent.
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