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The State of Reform
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Download Unite America's free report analyzing the impact of four key political reforms.
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Montana's tough donor disclosure law survives at Supreme Court

Oregon remapping bid dies at Supreme Court, now 0-7 on easing democracy during Covid

The Supreme Court has extended its unbroken string of rulings against making it easier to be part of the democratic process during the pandemic.

The justices on Tuesday blocked a lower court's ruling that it should be easier for Oregon's redistricting reform advocates to collect signatures during the national health crisis. The decision means there won't be a referendum on the November ballot that would take the power to draw congressional and legislative maps away from the Democratic powers in Salem and turn it over to a new citizens' redistricting commission — the top goal of crusaders against partisan gerrymandering.

It's the latest of seven cases since this spring where the conservative-majority high court has ruled against groups seeking relaxed ballot rules because of the coronavirus. It has not ruled once in favor of such an effort.

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A handful of states are in the final stretch to get anti-gerrymandering measures on the November ballot.

Four states inch closer to redistricting reform

Four states are on the cusp of approving anti-gerrymandering petitions for the November ballot, but challenges still remain.

Putting independent commissions, rather than politicians, in charge of drawing district maps is widely regarded as the most effective way to combat partisan gerrymandering. Next year, following the census, 14 states will use such commissions to draw state legislative districts, and eight will do so for congressional districts.

Getting on the November ballot and leaving it up to the voters is the last chance Arkansas, Nevada, North Dakota and Oregon have to make the switch to an independent redistricting commission before maps are redrawn for the new decade. But the Covid-19 pandemic has made gathering signatures to qualify for the ballot especially difficult.

Here are updates on redistricting reform campaigns in those states.

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Voting
True
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Because the Supreme Court stripped the "preclearance" section of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, states must enact their own laws to protect the rights of communities of color, according to Greenwood and Norouzi.

Why it's time for every state to enact its own voting rights law

Greenwood is co-director for voting rights and redistricting at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. Norouzi is deputy director of OneAmerica, an immigrant and refugee advocacy organization in Washington state.

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Redistricting reformers to Oregon voters: You've got mail

In keeping with social distancing mandates, crusaders against partisan gerrymandering in Oregon have settled on a new old-fashioned way to recruit allies: Send a letter, by snail mail.

With the coronavirus pandemic ruling out traditional in-person canvassing across the country, many grassroots democracy efforts have gone silent — some after failing to get permission to obtain electronic signatures for their ballot measures.

Redistricting reformers in Oregon aren't going down the online route. Instead they are mailing copies of their ballot proposal, which would turn legislative mapmaking over to an independent redistricting commission, to half a million residential addresses in search of handwritten endorsements.

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