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Partisan gerrymanders stopped gun controls in five states, think tank says

One of the most prominent talking points in the entire democracy reform movement is that curbing money's sway over elections is a prerequisite to fixing every one of the nation's biggest problems. Now critics of partisan gerrymandering are trying to piggyback on that concept.

A new study concludes that aggressive legislative mapmaking by Republican majorities is responsible for the lack of any new gun control laws in five states during a decade marked by the accelerating pace of mass shootings.

In issuing the report Tuesday, the Center for American Progress, one of Washington's most influential liberal think tanks, joined the lengthening roster of groups advocating for states to take the drawing of political boundaries away from the politicians themselves in and turn the responsibility over to independent and nonpartisan panels.

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Big Picture
David Thornburgh

David Thornburgh, president of the Committee of Seventy, is the son of a former governor of Pennsylvania. "He said to me once that the GOP was at its best as the party of reform. It saddens me that the party has left people like him behind," he said.

Meet the reformer: David Thornburgh, taking the family business a new way

David Thornburgh has spent his career managing civic engagement programs in Pennsylvania, no surprise given that he was raised by parents focused on public and community service. Before being named president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, which successfully fought for campaign contribution limits and an ethics board in Philadelphia, the Haverford College grad ran the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. He also conducted a 13-year run as executive director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What's the tweet-length description of your organization?

Founded by business and civic leaders in 1904, the Committee of Seventy (C70) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocate for better government in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.

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Election Systems & Software

This machine by Election Systems & Software, certified for use in Pennsylvania, produces a bar code printout rather than a paper copy that a voter can review.

Pennsylvania’s new voting systems face an array of challenges

Pennsylvania continues to be a hotspot in the ongoing national campaign to create voting systems that are better able to fend off hacking attempts next year.

Jill Stein, the 2016 Green Party presidential candidate, recently asked a federal judge to declare state officials in violation of a court-approved agreement because they certified a voting system that doesn't generate a readable paper ballot.

And a Republican county official, after being told by state officials he would soon face legal action, changed his mind and said he would support purchasing new voting machines.

Pennsylvania's voting systems carry significance far beyond the state's borders for several reasons. Until recently, it was one of just a handful of states in which votes were still stored electronically without printed ballots. Election security experts say in order to have the best shot at surviving a hacking attempt, voting systems must generate a paper record for each ballot.

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The 13 states where election security matters most

Along with the candidates and the issues, the 2020 presidential election is also going to be about the voting process itself.

Russian efforts to hack into the voting systems of 2016 have boosted election security to a critical concern this time, prompting states to spend tens of millions buying new equipment, hiring cybersecurity wizards and installing software that warns of intrusions — among numerous other steps. More purchases of hardware, software and expertise are coming in the months ahead.

Whether enough money gets spent, and wisely, won't be known for sure until Nov. 3, 2020 — when the system will be subject to the one test that really matters. And whether the country decides the presidential election result is trustworthy will likely come down to how reliably things work in the relatively small number of states both nominees are contesting.

[Swing states build 2020 hacking protections: Will they hold?]

With 11 months to go, The Fulcrum reviewed information from state elections officials, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Election Assistance Commission and news reports to get a sense of the election security landscape. Here's the state of play in the 13 states likeliest to be presidential battlegrounds.

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