Nov 7, 2018

These midterm victories will expand voting rights, curb gerrymandering

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.

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

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Updated 28 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Federal judge strikes down Florida law requiring felons to pay fines before voting

Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: oe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Sunday ruled that a Florida law requiring convicted felons to pay all court fines and fees before registering to vote is unconstitutional.

Why it matters: The ruling, which will likely be appealed by state Republicans, would clear the way for hundreds of thousands of ex-felons in Florida to register to vote ahead of November's election.

White House announces new coronavirus travel restrictions on Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with Trump, March 19, 2019. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool via Getty Images

The White House announced that beginning at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday, President Trump would suspend entry of non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil in the past 14 days in an effort to stop the imported spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Brazil has reported nearly 350,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the second-most in the world behind the U.S. — and has emerged as a Southern Hemisphere hotspot as other heavily affected countries in Asia and Europe have managed to get their outbreaks under control.