News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.

The Fulcrum Digest: Voting Access Proposals Are Sweeping the Nation

There has been a surge in legislation to ease access to the polls during the early days of state legislative sessions across the country.

The New York University School of Law's Brennan Center counts at least 230 bills that have been filed or pre-filed at state capitals since the midterm election – with bipartisan efforts to place automatic voter registration, vote-by-mail, same-day registration or the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons on the legislative agendas in 31 states.

Hawaii Moves Toward Always Voting by Mail

Legislators in Hawaii this week began debating a range of election measures including a proposal to make the archipelago the fourth state in the nation that conducts all voting by mail.

Mail ballots are now an option and have outnumbered those cast at traditional polling places since 2014. A bill starting to move in the legislature would shift Hawaii to an exclusively mail-in system in 2022. Previous have been passed by the state Senate but ignored in the state House. However, Democratic majority leaders in both chambers say they are supportive of the reform this session, Honolulu Civic Beat reports.

Ranked-Choice Voting Gets Next Test in D.C. Suburbs

One of the hottest concepts in the world of election modernization is "ranked-choice voting" – where rather than selecting one candidate per contest, voters list candidates for each office in order of preference. Whenever no one secures majority support in the first round, an automated runoff among top finishers kicks in.

It's hailed by supporters as a means of giving more power to voters, enhancing the prospects of outsider candidates, boosting civility in campaigns and producing more consensus-minded lawmakers. Detractors see the system as confusing and in someway disenfranchising.

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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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