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With impeachment underway, one committee spends a day talking about civility

News

With impeachment underway, one committee spends a day talking about civility

While many members of Congress spent Thursday talking about impeachment, one House committee held a hearing on promoting congressional civility. Those two ideas may not seem likely to co-exist, but those who testified hold out hope that Congress can come out of the coming drama in better shape.

"There is an overarching question we have to engage," Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, told the House Committee on the Modernization of Congress. "Are we facing a crisis in a democracy that is durable and capable and up to the task? Or are we actually facing a crisis of democracy in an institution that's strained and brittle and at real risk?"

It remains to be seen what, if anything, a divided Congress can accomplish in the midst of an impeachment inquiry. But, he noted, it somehow functioned under similar situations in the past.

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Here's a business plan: Wooing millennials to the polls with prizes, not guilt

Traditionally, voter registration and turnout drives go right for the moral argument.

Registering to vote and going to the polls is your obligation in a democracy, the organizers plead. People have died to make it possible for us to vote. And, of course, every vote counts so yours could decide the election.

Noble thoughts, all, but the relatively poor turnout through the years — including just north of 30 percent of voters ages 18 to 29 in last year's hard-fought midterm — argues for a different approach. Maybe one as truly American, if in a totally different way, as the appeals to duty and civic pride.

Think teams. And competition. And, best of all, prizes.

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Postal deal resolves anxiety over cost of overseas voting

Agreement this week at an international meeting on postal rates should remove any concerns about potentially outrageous costs for mailing ballots to and from American citizens living overseas.

Election officials had grown increasingly worried following the Trump administration's threat to withdraw in October from the Universal Postal Union, a group of nearly 200 nations that governs international postal rates. Such a move would have made it both difficult and costly for Americans living abroad to mail home their ballots.

But at a special meeting this week in Geneva, the countries involved in the UPU reached an agreement to address concerns by the United States and others regarding the lower rates that China was being charged.

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North Carolina's latest election problem: New but not secure voting machines

Nothing seems to work smoothly when it comes to elections in North Carolina. Just this year, for example, ballot fraud mandated the rare do over of a congressional election and the courts ordered yet another remapping of gerrymandered political boundaries.

Now comes another problem: The potential failure to properly certify new election systems.

Academics, advocates and some members of the state Board of Elections have questioned whether the board has properly reviewed the source code and security capabilities for three election systems, particularly the ExpressVote machines produced by ES&S, reports WRAL.

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Debate

More ballot initiatives won't make Americans feel better about politics

Scholars Joshua Dyck and Edward Lascher, Jr. argue that the use of ballot initiatives increases Americans' distrust in government and that more democracy isn't necessarily better democracy. On Friday, we will publish an opposing view: that ballot initiatives are good for the United States.

Community

Civics Forward 2019

Joined by leading figures from journalism, politics, and academia, this conference will explore how polarization is driving Americans into competing and antagonistic tribes. We will examine the history of tribalism, its impacts on politics, and what role the media should play.

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Ballot measures are good democracy — but only if you can understand them

Marginal improvements have been made to help voters understand the questions posed to them on the ballot this November, a new study concludes, but such ballot measures still favor the college-educated — who represent a minority of the U.S. population.

This year voters in eight states will decide the fate of a collective 36 such propositions. In a study released Thursday, Ballotpedia assessed how easy it is to comprehend what each proposal would accomplish, concluding that the difficulty level had decreased compared with the referendums decided in the last off-year election of 2017 — but not by much.

In fact, according to a pair of well-established tests, 21 of the 36 ballot measures cannot be understood by the 40 percent of the voting-age population who never attended college.

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Balance of Power
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Two states asking Supreme Court for permission to regulate Electoral College conduct

Colorado has become the second state to ask the Supreme Court to decide if states may legally bind their presidential electors to vote for the candidate who carried their state.

The issue of so-called faithless electors is the latest aspect of an increasingly heated debate about the virtues and flaws of the Electoral College that has blossomed, especially among progressive democracy reform advocates, now that two of the past five presidential winners (Donald Trump in 2016 and George W. Bush in 2000) got to the Oval Office despite losing the national popular vote.

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