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Virginia moves to take politics out of mapmaking

Advocates for political reform nationwide always take heart when something they favor happens close to Washington, believing changes at the local level will eventually boost interest in federal action. So there's excitement among crusaders against gerrymandering, because Virginia is on the cusp of depoliticizing the way its election boundaries are drawn.

Both chambers of the state legislature have passed measures that would call a statewide vote on amending the Virginia constitution to create a bipartisan redistricting commission. The two bills are different in some important ways, but the Washington Post editorial board believes a compromise will be struck in coming days – because both Republican and Democratic legislators have concluded that claiming a good-government victory is in their best interests headed into the state's off-year campaign cycle.

"Facing the possibility of losses in this fall's legislative elections, and the certainty of new electoral maps following the 2020 Census, many in the GOP see a bipartisan redistricting commission as their best protection against the growing likelihood of Democratic dominance in Richmond," the paper writes. "For their part, Democrats have talked a good game on redistricting reform for years. Now, incumbents seem to realize they had better deliver or face the wrath of their own party's voters in June primaries."

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During his State of the Union address this year, President Trump said he would stonewall the legislative process if members of Congress don't play ball, writes Neal.

A year of broken standards for America’s democracy

Neal is federal government affairs manager at R Street Institute, a nonpartisan and pro-free-market public policy research organization.

The term "democratic norms" has become a misnomer over the last year. America's governing institutions are undermined by elected officials who dishonor their offices and each other. Standards of behavior and "normal" processes of governance seem to be relics of a simpler time. Our democracy has survived thus far, but the wounds are many.

Free speech and free press have been the White House's two consistent whipping posts. Comments such as "I think it is embarrassing for the country to allow protestors" and constant attacks on press credibility showcase President Trump's disdain for the pillars of democracy. Traditional interactions between the administration and the press are no longer taken for granted. Demeaning, toxic criticisms have become so common that they're being ignored. As the administration revokes critics' press passes and daily briefings are canceled, normalcy in this arena is sorely missed.

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The founders of Register2Vote, Madeline Eden and Jeremy Smith, preparing registration information for mailing in Texas last year.

After successful Texas debut, tech-based voter registration platform goes national

Having had remarkable success at signing people up to vote in Texas last year, an Austin group of activists is expanding its pilot program into a full-blown national effort to overcome the sometimes ignored first hurdle for people in the voting process — registration.

"There are millions of voters who are registered who don't get out to vote," said Christopher Jasinski, director of partnerships for Register2Vote. "But the unmeasured part of the pie is the actual number of unregistered voters."

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