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Regulating online ads violates First Amendment, says court


Regulation of online political ads violates the First Amendment, federal appeals court rules

A Maryland law intended to prevent foreign election interference by regulating online political advertising has been struck down by a federal appeals court.

At a time when controlling the surge of misleading campaign spots on social media and news sites has proved easier said than done, Maryland was the first state to expand disclosure mandates. Its General Assembly enacted a law in time for the closing months of the 2018 midterm campaign requiring such platforms to publish information about ad purchases and keep records for the state to review.

But a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals says the law unconstitutionally singles out political expression for special scrutiny and promises a "chilling effect" on free speech. The unanimous ruling on Friday, upholding a federal trial judge's position, is the latest in a series of federal judicial decisions against efforts to regulate campaign financing.

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More than 100,000 Kentucky felons will get back their right to vote this year

Kentucky's new governor plans to sign an executive order Thursday restoring the vote to more than 100,000 convicted non-violent felons who have completed their sentences.

Andy Beshear, a Democrat and former state attorney general, made the announcement Tuesday in his inaugural address. It's the fulfillment of a promise that shaped the closing days of his campaign last fall, when he won an upset against Republican incumbent Matt Bevin.

"My faith teaches me to treat others with dignity and respect. My faith also teaches forgiveness," Beshear said, and so he will use his executive power to restore "voting rights to over 100,000 men and women who have done wrong in the past but are doing right now. They deserve to participate in our great democracy."

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Flawed multistate voter database turned off to settle civil rights suit

A controversial database used to check whether voters are registered in more than one state has been suspended until security safeguards are put in place.

Use of the Interstate Crosscheck program was put on hold as part of the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas on behalf of nearly 1,000 voters whose partial Social Security numbers were exposed by Florida officials through an open records request.

Kansas began operating the multistate program 14 years ago but it has not been used since 2017, when a federal audit discovered its security vulnerabilities.

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Three young legislators honored for making cross-party collaboration a cause

Three legislators with records of bipartisanship and collaboration were given the second round of Rising Star awards on Tuesday night by the Millennial Action Project, a nonpartisan group that aims to boost those two characteristics among younger people in public life.

The organization started the prize program last year, marking MAP's fifth anniversary, to recognize lawmakers who have taken the lead in organizing chapters of its Future Caucus Network in 30 state legislatures. MAP says its is the largest nonpartisan organization of millennial elected officials in the nation.

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The broken budget process is a democracy reform issue

"Budget reform is a tough nut to crack," argues Kevin Kosar, vice president of policy at the R Street Institute.


Debate: Big tech and the future of political speech online

The growing power and influence of 'Big Tech' have inspired a new wave of critics on both America's Left and Right. Join R Street Institute on Dec. 11 in San Francisco to hear a debate over how to handle tech and political speech online.

Wednesday's Word of the Week:

Scam PAC: A colloquial term for a political action committee that collects contributions but donates little (or none) of the money to candidates. Instead, most (or all) the money is spent for the benefit of the people running the PAC.

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