Republicans hoping to limit the newly restored voting rights of convicted felons in Florida have won the backing of the state Supreme Court. But it's really just a victory in the court of public opinion, because the justices issued only an advisory opinion Thursday while the real decision is up to the federal courts.
At issue is a law passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature last year to implement a state constitutional amendment approved in 2018 with the support of almost two-thirds of the electorate, restoring voting rights to about 1.4 million Floridians with criminal records.
It is the largest single expansion of voting rights in the country since 18-year-olds got the constitutional right to cast ballots half a century ago. But its reach could be sharply limited if Republicans successfully defend the financial curbs they want to impose.
The campaign operation backed by Barack Obama and Eric Holder is expanding its sights.
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee was created by the former president and his attorney general to elect more Democratic legislators who could help the party in the coming nationwide remapping of congressional districts. Now it's growing its ambitions to include some judicial elections.
The first target is a pair of Supreme Court elections in Ohio. That's because winning both would tip the partisan balance of the court, and those justices are likely to end up deciding the lines for the 15 House districts that the seventh largest state is likely to have in the coming decade, one fewer than today.
What's one good way to fix dysfunction in American democracy? A centrist think tank has come up with a very counterintuitive answer:
Give the voters even less say over how their presidential candidates get nominated.
A white paper released this week by The New Center argues that the leaders of the political parties — not primary voters — should have the predominant voice in deciding which candidates best represent the ideals, norms and goals of the party.
A lifelong resident of the Cleveland area, Ted Wetzel is an engineer who spent five years at a Fortune 500 company, 17 years in marketing and management at smaller manufacturers, and then 11 years as a small-business owner before turning to his passion project. He created Fighting to Understand to spread the message that civic education and a collaborative spirit among everyday Americans can restore the core values of a democratic republic for the next generation. With a diverse group of 18 collaborators, in October he self-published the first edition of a book now titled "9 Secrets for Avoiding Divided We Fall" and is working on a plan for widespread distribution this spring. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
What's democracy's biggest challenge, in 10 words or less.
Most people don't want freedom; they would settle for a just master. (I'm not sure who to attribute this verse to.)
"Democrats have handed some rhetorical whoppers to opponents of democratic reforms. And such statements ... send a very bad message," argues producer Kevin Bowe.
Join organizations like American Promise, Public Citizen and Take Back Our Republic on Jan. 20 in Washington to attend a rally against corruption. Hear from powerful speakers in the democracy reform movement, learn how the corruption of our government affects the lives of real people, and be presented with different ways to get involved.
All states should adopt automatic voter registration, expand mail-in voting and implement new auditing practices to assure the accuracy of vote counts, a bipartisan panel of election administrators proposed Thursday.
A 57-page report released by the Bipartisan Policy Center, which convened a task force of officials to come up with ideas, offers 21 recommendations that cover all aspects of elections, from registration to casting and certifying ballots.
The recommendations, adopted unanimously by the nearly two dozen local and state election administrators from across the country, are intended to provide a roadmap for state legislatures to follow, said Matthew Weil, director of the BPC's effort. Lawmakers are convening in most state capitals this month for their annual sessions, so there is still time for election overhauls to be put in place before the November presidential election.
The first votes of the presidential election will be tabulated after the Iowa caucuses next month using the sort of internet-connected system that worries election security experts. They say preventing the sort of interference that sullied the 2016 election should be more of a priority than speed in compiling the returns.
But the Iowa Democratic Party plans to deploy a smartphone app to officials running the caucuses across the state for use in calculating and transmitting the results the night of Feb. 3. Putting such vote totals into cyberspace makes them readily vulnerable to nefarious hacking.
Party leaders say they are aware of the potential problems but believe their system will repel them. If that doesn't happen, the opening round of the intense contest for the Democratic nomination will be condemned to global ridicule.
A key part of Missouri's new and strict voter identification law has been struck down by the state's highest court.
The decision has potential nationwide importance. That's because the provision at issue, which allows people without photo IDs to cast ballots only after signing sworn statements, is similar to laws recently enacted in several other states.
Those have been labeled by critics, mostly Democrats, as thinly veiled voter suppression efforts, because poor, elderly, disabled and minority voters are less likely to have photo IDs or be agreeable to signing affidavits. But proponents, mainly Republicans, label such rules an appropriate guardrail against fraud.
It's no surprise that Democrats in Congress rank better on democracy reform than their Republican counterparts, especially when progressive groups are keeping score. Over the last year, GOP members were largely opposed to Democratic efforts to get big money out of politics and expand access to the ballot box.
So the bipartisan chasm comes off as enormous in the first congressional scorecard produced by End Citizens United, a liberal political action committee that's focused mainly on shrinking money's influence over politics. And the report, released this week, suggests only rare and subtle degrees of disapproval for the blue team on Capitol Hill in 2019 — and only a few areas for faint praise of the red team.
All members were rated on whether they accepted contributions from corporate PACs. The 432 current House members were also scored on how they voted on the floor four times — including of course on HR 1, the comprehensive political process overhaul passed in March — and how many of five measures important to the group they cosponsored. Since the Senate took no votes on legislation connected to democracy reform, the senators in office last year were rated only on a quartet of co-sponsorships.
"Both Team Nixon and Team Trump called their respective inquiries a 'witch hunt,' a 'lynch mob' and a 'kangaroo court,'" writes Ken Hughes of the University of Virginia.
New to phonebanking? Hop online with RepresentUs on Jan. 19 to learn how to leverage one of the most effective ways to activate supporters and help win campaigns.
In recent years, competition between the Democratic and Republican parties to gain a tactical edge in elections has centered on technology — who had the most sophisticated system for identifying potential voters and getting them to the polls.
This time, though, the leaders of the Democratic congressional campaign organizations have settled on a new strategy: going to court.
The party has gained scattershot headlines in recent months by filing federal lawsuits in mostly purple states, alleging an array of their election laws are unconstitutional voting rights violations or contradict federal law. But the ambitions of this strategy, and the size of the investment, did not become clear until last week.
A bipartisan consensus is forming behind the idea of bringing automatic voter registration to Ohio.
Legislation to that effect will be introduced by Democrats in the General Assembly as soon as it convenes for its annual session next week. The Legislature is controlled by Republicans, who have resisted the idea in the past. But several on the majority side are now willing to go along since Ohio's top elections official, GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose, has given his enthusiastic support.
If the measure becomes law, Ohio would become the second most populous place, after California, on a roster that would grow to 17 states plus Washington, D.C., with AVR.
"We have a political system that has been monopolized or gamed by the Republican and Democratic parties for more than a century and a half. This duopoly exists in opposition to our Constitution, not as a result of its enactment," argues commercial real estate broker David Krucoff.
Lobby your legislators on Jan. 29 in Atlanta, Ga., and urge for a transparent process, specific standards for districts maps, and citizen involvement, the core elements of the Democracy Act. We'll also ask them about their expectations for the 2021 redistricting process.