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Can the election be secured $1,200 at a time? Wisconsin's counting on it.

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Can the election be secured $1,200 at a time? Wisconsin's counting on it?

Wisconsin, which is expecting to again be among the hardest-fought presidential battlegrounds, is hoping an extremely modest amount of spending will boost the credibility and reliability of its 2020 balloting.

The state Elections Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a $1.1 million program to help cities and towns beef up their election security. Using the federal money received so far, however, the panel will be able to give just $1,200 each to a bit more than half the state's 1,800 municipalities — regardless of size. So Milwaukee (population 600,000) will get the same as Mellen (population 689).

"It's really a meaningless dollar amount. It's a rounding error for some of their things," Commissioner Mark Thomsen told Wisconsin Public Radio, referring to the budget of his home town, Milwaukee. "So that may not be the best way we spend federal dollars on security."

Wisconsin's efforts to accomplish meaningful safeguards with minimal money are emblematic of what's happening across the country, where elections are run by some 8,000 different state and local entities and they're all worried the 2020 results could be tarnished by hacking.

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Oregon vows to wake up its campaign finance investigators

Oregon officials have announced efforts to strengthen enforcement of campaign finance laws after reporting from the state's largest newspaper found the supposed election watchdog sleeping on the job.

The Oregonian reported last week on the case of a state House member, Democrat Deborah Boone, allegedly laundering campaign contributions by accepting donations after she announced her retirement last year and then making gifts to several candidates for the Legislature at the direction of her donors. But the state's campaign finance agency, called the Elections Division, dropped its investigation this summer as soon as Boone denied she'd done anything improper.

On Tuesday, GOP Secretary of State Bev Clarno and other state officials promised to review the state's campaign finance investigation process, with plans to revamp the system.

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Federal court to hear challenge to prison gerrymandering

A federal appeals court greenlit a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of counting prisoners where they're incarcerated, rather than where they're from, when drawing legislative boundaries.

While the ruling Tuesday by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals only advances the lawsuit to trial before three federal judges, it also holds open the possibility of an eventual landmark Supreme Court ruling on whether the practice of so-called prison gerrymandering violates the ʺone person, one voteʺ guarantee under the 14th Amendment.

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Mississippi election law designed for racial discrimination, suit alleges

Mississippi, normally as Republican red as any state, is expecting one of its closest gubernatorial races in years. But four African-American voters have sued in federal court to block the conduct of the election under the state's unique system, which they argue is racially discriminatory.

Since the 1890s, governors and other statewide candidates have had to win a two-tiered contest — securing not only a majority of the votes statewide, but also carrying most of the 122 state House districts. If no candidate crosses both thresholds then the state House, now solidly Republican, picks the winner.

The plaintiffs say the records of the 19th century legislative debate make clear that the system was designed explicitly to make sure an African-American could not win statewide, and none ever has.

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Debate

National Voter Registration Day was one step to reclaiming our democracy

Tuesday's voter registration activities offered "new Americans" — first- and second-generation immigrant voters — the opportunity to engage in the political process. But that was just a start and we need to keep working to achieve the principals of National Voter Registration Day, writes Sayu Bhojwani, president of New American Leaders.

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