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Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Voters in some key states across the U.S. overwhelmingly approved a slew of ballot initiatives during the midterm elections that will expand access to voting and curtail excessive partisan gerrymandering.

Why it matters: The measures will make elections more accessible and competitive, and they have the potential to shift the states’ electorates, which will greatly impact the outcome of local and federal elections — including the presidency. Meanwhile, the success of these initiatives could give grassroots organizations a blueprint on how to circumvent GOP-controlled legislatures that have largely opposed attempts to end gerrymandering and expand voting rights.

The state of play:
  • Last night, Florida voters passed a constitutional amendment that automatically re-enfranchised 1.5 million ex-felons. The move is one of the most significant expansions of voting rights in decades, and it will shift the makeup of the country’s largest battleground state, which plays a deciding role in presidential elections. 
  • Maryland will allow eligible residents to register to vote as late as Election Day.
  • Nevada enacted automatic voter registration when drivers contact the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Michigan voters approved sweeping election law changes that will be enshrined into the state’s constitution, including same-day voter registration, no-reason absentee ballots and straight-party voting.
  • Anti-gerrymandering initiatives in Colorado and Michigan have now shifted the duty of drawing state legislative and congressional districts into the hands of independent redistricting commissions rather than lawmakers. The fate of a similar measure in Utah remained too close to call by early Wednesday. The goal is to make election maps more fair and competitive, and this comes ahead of the next reapportionment process that begins after the 2020 Census count.

Yes, but: Voting rights advocates received brutal blows in Arkansas and North Carolina, where Republican-sponsored constitutional amendments requiring voters to present a photo ID at the polls were approved.

  • North Carolina Republicans, who lost their supermajority in the state legislature, will now decide what forms of ID will be accepted.

Reality check: With Republicans successfully securing control of the Senate, President Trump, with the aide of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), will continue to rapidly transform the federal bench with conservative judges who are more likely to uphold restrictive voting laws challenged by advocacy groups.

Go deeper:

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated that the measure in Utah had passed. It remained too close to call as of Wednesday.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

The bomb cyclone and atmospheric river seen via satellite on Sunday. The center of the storm is at the middle of the comma shape, due west of Washington State. (CIRA/RAMMB)

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Fauci fires back at Rand Paul for slam on tonight's "Axios on HBO"

Responding to charges by Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday's "Axios on HBO," NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "ABC This Week" that it's "molecularly impossible" for U.S.-funded bat virus research in China to have produced COVID-19.

Why it matters: The issue 0f Wuhan research was reignited on the right last week with a National Institutes of Health letter to Congress disclosing more about the research.

Manchin, Schumer huddle with Biden in Delaware to discuss spending bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (left) and Sen. Joe Manchin at the U.S. Capitol in 2014. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will meet with President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday morning in Delaware as Democrats look to reach an agreement on the massive spending measure.

Driving the news: Democrats are still negotiating what to keep in the bill and how to pay for it, with Biden saying on Thursday that the party does not have the votes to raise the corporate tax rate.