Wisconsin's Democratic governor has an idea — at once innovative and as old as time — for combating the gerrymandering he expects next year from the Republicans running the Legislature: He hopes to embarrass them to do the right thing.
On Monday he ordered the creation of an independent commission to show how the state's political lines could be drawn to promote political competition and minimize ridiculous contours. Once that work is done, Gov. Tony Evers said, he'll dare the GOP powers in Madison to spurn those nonpartisan maps in favor of their own.
The Republicans were quick to answer that the shaming strategy won't work, because on the pretty safe bet they win continued control in November they'll feel no restraint in drawing boundaries that keep it that way for another 10 years.
Washington looks on course to become the second state in as many months to restore voting rights to felons as soon as they leave prison.
Last week a state Senate committee approved a bill repealing a requirement that convicts complete probation before reclaiming the franchise. The measure now goes to the full Senate, which like the state House has a solid Democratic majority.
New Jersey, another state where the levers of power are all in Democrats' hands, re-enfranchised more than 80,000 people by enacting a similar law in December — becoming the 17th state, plus Washington, D.C., where discharge from prison is the only barrier to a felon voting.
"State polls can give a clearer sense of voters' priorities before and between elections," argues Daniel R. Birdsong of the University of Dayton.
Learn how to message the Census in a way that builds trust in the process during this Nonprofit VOTE webinar on Jan. 30.
A historic number of young voters are set to turn out during the pivotal Iowa caucuses next month, a new poll finds. And by participating in record numbers, the youth bloc could tilt the results heavily in favor of the leading progressive candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.
More than a third of eligible Iowa voters between the ages of 18 and 29 said they were "extremely likely" to participate during the Feb. 3 caucuses, a number that would dwarf previous turnout figures, according to researchers at Tufts University's Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement and Suffolk University.
Only an estimated 11 percent of young Iowans turned out for the 2016 caucuses, when both parties had contested primaries. In 2008 and 2012, just 4 percent of young voters participated in the country's first-in-the-nation nominating contest, the researchers said.
The city of Beverly Hills is suing Los Angeles County election officials, claiming that new voting devices are going to confuse voters and hurt the chances of some candidates running in the March 3 county primaries.
The new hand-held touchscreens, which the city admits are an improvement over old voting methods, contain "a severe ballot design flaw, one that threatens the integrity and accuracy of dozens of races in the upcoming consolidated primary election," according to the lawsuit, which was filed this week.
The problem is that the screen shows at most four candidates in a particular race — requiring voters to hit the "more" button to see additional contenders.
A New Hampshire lawmaker has proposed legislation to establish Jan. 24 as "Granny D Day" to honor the beloved political activist.
A Granite State native, Doris "Granny D" Haddock was known across the country for her dedication to campaign finance reform. She died at age 100 in 2010. Friday would have been her 110th birthday.
In 1999, at the age of 88, Granny D embarked on a 3,200-mile walk from California to Washington, D.C., to bring attention to the need for campaign finance reform. The journey ended with a rally at the Capitol 14 months later.
Nsé Ufot is executive director of the New Georgia Project and its political arm, the New Georgia Project Action Fund, a voter registration organization founded by Stacey Abrams when she was a Democratic leader in the state House. Ufot emigrated from Nigeria to Atlanta as kid, graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Dayton Law School and was previously an executive at Canada's largest faculty union and a lobbyist for the American Association of University Professors. Her answers have been lightly edited for clarity.
What's your most disappointing setback?
I don't have any. I count them all as learning opportunities.
"News organizations should show us the facts about each candidate and let us decide who to choose," argues journalist Peter Copeland.
Looking for a crash course on a core cause of our republic's dysfunction, along with 10 of the leading proposals for fixing it? Consider spending 25 minutes listening to this WTTG podcast featuring Neal Simon. A Maryland businessman and democracy reform philanthropist, his experience running for the Senate as in independent in 2018 prompted him to write "Contract to Unite America." (RealClear Publishing, 2020) "We have a political system that incentivizes our leaders to be very divisive and to push us apart," he says at the end. "Through a set of political reforms we can change that and we can have leaders that are promoting unity."
When it comes to democracy, sometimes Americans believe they not only invented the idea, they perfected it.
But two respected annual report cards out this week — one looking at democracy and the other at its anathema, governmental corruption — offer some sobering context for those who might instinctively believe that the United States is going to be naturally at the top of the heap.
The latest corruption study, by the venerable global watchdog group Transparency International, finds trust in the United States' political system at an all-time low and that government corruption has become a major concern for most Americans. The newest report on the state of global democracy by the Economist finds the United States dropping steadily in the last decade when compared with other countries.
Minnesota's limit on the amount of help one person may give to others in casting their ballots violates federal law and the state's constitution, the latest Democratic voting rights lawsuit alleges.
The litigation was announced Thursday by the party's House and Senate campaign committees. They filed it last week against the state's top elections official, Secretary of State Steve Simon, a fellow Democrat.
The suit joins more than a dozen others already filed in the early stages of the 2020 campaign by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, part of an eight-figure attack on state laws they view as attempts to suppress turnout by black people and other minorities or to give Republicans some other political advantage.
An uphill drive is being revived to make casting a ballot easier in Alabama, which has been at the center of the struggle for voting rights in the United States for more than half a century.
Thomas Jackson, one of the longest serving Democrats in Montgomery, is already gathering support for bills to permit absentee voting without an excuse as well as mandate early voting in every county in the state, one of the few places where neither provision is on the books.
He'll introduce the bills when the Legislature convenes in two weeks. But he's proposed them before and they've never received so much as a committee vote in the lopsided Republican legislature. And Alabama's top elections official, GOP Secretary of State John Merrill, says he's confident both measures will die again this year.
Progressive groups in Ohio formally launched their effort Wednesday to put before the voters an amendment to the state constitution making voting easier on several fronts.
If ultimately successful, the package would be counted on to boost turnout in one of the nation's most populous political bellwethers starting in 2022.
But first, a coalition of mostly left-leaning groups called Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections, spearheaded by the state's branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, must collect 443,000 valid signatures by July on a petition asking for the referendum.
"The comparisons between these countries and the United States today should be alarming to all of us, as the similarities are striking. An instruction manual exists on how to destroy the rule of law," argues Mark Botsford, who lived in Latin America for more than 30 years.
Join Fair Districts GA on Jan. 29 to urge legislators to transparent redistricting process, specific standards for districts maps, and citizen involvement, the core elements of the Democracy Act.
In a development sure to worry election security experts, the conservation district for Seattle is conducting this year's election on the internet.
It is the ninth election in the fifth state to use mobile voting, but the first time that method has been for everyone who casts a ballot, Tusk Philanthropies said Wednesday in announcing an agreement with officials in Washington's King County to help promote the voting. Previous uses of mobile systems have been confined to overseas, military or disabled people in the electorate.
Since Russians attempted to hack into voting systems during the 2016 presidential election, security experts have uniformly criticized any system with an online component. The most secure method for voting, they agree, involves paper ballots that no one but the voter can mark, and can then be readily recounted or used in an audit to assure the accuracy of returns.
Officials in New Jersey have until June to create a secure website allowing eligible residents to begin registering to vote online.
Work on the site by the secretary of state's office can begin because on Tuesday Gov. Phil Murphy signed a measure that will make New Jersey the 38th state with online registration.
It's the latest in a small wave of recent laws easing access to the ballot box in the 11th most populous state, and the fourth biggest that's reliably Democratic. The measures started advancing after Murphy became governor three years ago, succeeding Republican Chris Christie, and signaled an eagerness to sign voting rights measures written by his fellow Democrats who have solid control of the Legislature.
Legislators in Massachusetts are considering two measures Wednesday that would permit municipalities to lower the voting age in local elections.
Enacting the legislation would push the state to the forefront of the growing national movement to extend the franchise to teenagers in the name of boosting civic engagement. Opponents say young people do not merit so much responsibility.
The fact that the legislation has even been put on the state House docket is evidence of solid support among its overwhelmingly Democratic membership. The party also controls the state Senate, but Gov. Charlie Baker is a Republican and he's expressed skepticism about the idea.
"The only way to reclaim our democracy and create a political system that is truly of the people, by the people and for the people is by getting big money out of politics," argues Devin Hiett of American Promise.
Stop by the Flint Farmers Market any time between 9 am and 3 pm on Jan. 25 to complete an application for Michigan's Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Voters Not Politicians volunteers will be present to answer questions, assist as needed, and notarize your application for free.
Wednesday's Word of the Week:
Citizens United: Citizens United v. FEC was a 2010 Supreme Court case that resulted in corporations, nonprofit organizations and labor unions being permitted to make unlimited independent expenditures in support or against political candidates. The justices ruled, 5-4, that the First Amendment's protection of free speech prohibits the government from restricting such spending.