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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, Michigan and Utah have now shifted the duty of drawing state legislative and congressional districts into the hands of independent redistricting commissions rather than lawmakers. 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:

Go deeper

The elusive political power of Mexican Americans

Data: Pew Research Center, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Mexican Americans make up the nation's largest Latino group, yet they remain politically outshined by more recently arrived Cuban Americans.

Why it matters: The disparities in political power between Mexican Americans and Cuban Americans reflect the racial, historical, geographical and economic differences within Latino cultures in the U.S.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
45 mins ago - Health

The barriers to vaccine passports

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccine passports could become available soon to help people resume their livesbut they face numerous scientific, social and political barriers to being accepted.

The big picture: Reliable and accessible proof of vaccine-induced protection from the novel coronavirus could speed international travel and economic reopening, but obstacles to its wide-scale adoption are so great it may never fully arrive.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Senate action on stimulus bill continues as Dems reach deal on jobless aid

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic leaders struck an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on emergency unemployment insurance late Friday, clearing the way for Senate action on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package to resume after an hours-long delay.

The state of play: The Senate continued to work through votes on a series of amendments overnight into early Saturday morning.