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Demonstrators protest legislation placing new restrictions on voting in Georgia.

At a turning point for voting rights, direction signals point both ways

The public's access to electoral democracy may be about to dangerously contract — or else expand dramatically.

So far, the movement to restrict access to the ballot box has gotten by far the most play. The Georgia law enacted to national headlines last week goes way beyond barring water deliveries at polling places, in part by setting a disturbing precedent in stripping administrative power from nonpartisan election officials and placing it in the hands of politicians. Broad new curbs on voting in Iowa, enacted three week ago, include criminal charges for local officials who skirt the new rules. Six other states are considering similar moves to take power from nonpartisan election administrators.

Less noticed, meanwhile, has been a parallel movement to expand voter access in states literally from coast to coast.

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Congress
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As worker bees like Republican Sen. Rob Portman head for the exits, it will become even harder for Congress to pass legislation.

After the attack, government's 'first branch' struggles to keep from breaking

To bemoan the trials faced by members of Congress these days may seem naïve, even perverse.

The lawmakers on Capitol Hill represent one of the most hated classes in American public life. If service in Congress has become polarized, fruitless and even dangerous, anti-government rhetoric from Capitol Hill ideologues is at least partly to blame. Public approval for Congress stands at just 25 percent — up a few points from last month, but still well below most public institutions.

Yet it is fair to say that House members and senators are in the throes of an existential, electoral and institutional crisis.

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With Bidens in the White House, civic education should get more support.

For educators, a time of opportunity after civic life's current stress test

Civic educators watched last week's riotous assault on the Capitol with a mixture of alarm and hope. The mob's brazen disregard for the truth and the rule of law shook teachers around the nation, but also made a stunning case for the need to invest in civic learning, which could enjoy a breakthrough year in 2021.

A bipartisan bill to invest $1 billion in civic education, a teacher-friendly incoming president, popular support for civic learning, a surge in youth activism — and the fragile state of American democracy itself — have all combined to create "sort-of a Sputnik moment" for civics, says Louise Dubé, the executive director of iCivics.

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