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The Alliance for Youth Action is pushing Congress to improve access to the ballot, "especially for young voters."

Petition of young voters launched to press Congress for easier ballot access

An advocacy coalition is working to galvanize younger voters to pressure Congress to improve voting rights before the presidential election, a cause that remains a decided long shot.

The Alliance for Youth Action, an umbrella organization of groups working to enhance the political power of younger voters, has launched a petition drive urging action on Capitol Hill to "protect voting rights and access to the ballot — especially for young voters."

As of Thursday morning — one week after the launch of the petition — more than 28,000 people had signed on.

The alliance hasn't publicly announced a goal for signatures. But it seems highly likely that no number would change the mind of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said no legislation to revamp the political system will move through the Republican-majority Senate before November 2020.

The petition is timed to coincide with the 54th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act's enactment. "Too many young people still face obstacles to exercising their constitutional right to vote," it says. "It is crucial that young people have a voice in government and the chance to secure a more equitable future."

Members of the alliance have been behind several successful voting rights expansions at the state and local level, including boosting young voter registration and creating the nation's first automatic voter registration system in Oregon, enacting Colorado laws permitting online registration and pre-registration by people as young as 16, and bringing same-day, online and automatic registration to Chicago.

Virtually all the items on the alliance's wish list for boosting the youth vote nationwide — automatic voter registration for anyone who gets a new driver's license, pre-registration for high schoolers, longer early voting calendars, Election Day registration, voting by mail — would be instituted in every state under the comprehensive political process overhaul House Democrats passed this spring. But that bill, HR 1, is tops on McConnell's roster of legislative dislikes.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a trio of democracy reform bills this week.

California governor signs three political reform bills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Tuesday three democracy reform bills focused on local redistricting, voting access and campaign contributions.

The first piece of legislation prohibits partisan gerrymandering at the local level by establishing criteria for cities and counties to use when adjusting district boundaries. While California is the largest state to use an independent redistricting commission to draw its congressional and state district maps, local districts did not have the same regulations.

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Gov. Ralph Northam used his executive authority to restore voting rights for felons, noting that Virginia is among the states that permanently strips such rights after a felony conviction.

Virginia governor restores voting rights to over 22,000 felons

More than 22,000 Virginians with felony convictions have regained the right to vote thanks to executive actions taken by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam since he took office in January 2018, his office announced this week.

In a statement, Northam's office said he has so far restored the civil rights of 22,205 people who had been convicted of felonies and have since completed their sentences. Those civil rights include the right to vote as well as the right to serve on juries, run for public office and become a notary public.

Northam previously announced in February that nearly 11,000 convicted felons had their voting rights restored under his watch.

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