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Democracy Madness: Follow the money to the second round

The first-round results from the Money in Politics region of our Democracy Madness tournament looked like a typical March Madness bracket: The top seeds advanced, with a couple of low-level upsets spicing things up.

So now it's on to the Elite Eight, with our readers urged to take another shot at picking their favorite ideas for fixing the campaign finance system. (Our tournament of 64 democracy reform proposals has already seen ranked-choice voting and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact advance to the Final Four.)

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Democracy Madness: Follow the money

So far, ranked-choice voting and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact have earned spots in the Democracy Madness Final Four, our competition to find the single most important change championed by democracy reformers. Now we turn to ideas for changing the role of money in politics.

The voters surprised us in the Elections region, repeatedly going for underdogs. But we expect to see the higher-seeded reforms perform better this time around as the top-ranked proposals, repealing the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling and removing the "dark" from dark money, are major elements of the democracy reform agenda.

This bracket of 16 is sprinkled with ideas around public financing of campaigns, restrictions on lobbyists, and new disclosure requirements for both fundraising and campaign spending. While many of these proposals can appear somewhat technical or arcane, one in particular may resonate with voters: the demand for presidential candidates to release their tax returns. This has become a major issue now that President Trump is taking his refusal to show his 1040s all the way to the Supreme Court.

First-round voting continues through Tuesday, with succeeding rounds taking place over the next week and a half. Two weeks from today, we'll kick off the "best of the rest" bracket, to be followed by the Final Four.

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Click the Vote Now button to make your eight selections. (You can click the matchups, then each label, for more about the proposals.)

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The Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge claiming Seattle's democracy vouchers are unconstitutional.

Seattle's public funding for candidates survives Supreme Court challenge

A constitutional challenge to Seattle's "democracy voucher" program, the only system of its kind for subsidizing political campaigns with taxpayer funds, has fallen on deaf ears at the Supreme Court.

Two property owners in the city maintained the unique system violates their First Amendment rights by compelling them, through their tax payments, to support candidates they oppose. The justices turned down their appeal Monday without comment.

It was a rare bit of good news for advocates of reducing the influence of big money on politics, who have been disappointed by almost every campaign finance decision by the high court in the past decade.

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