1. No pressure… but “the next decade is essentially on the ballot in the fall of 2018”

Photo of a Yes/No question on a ballotVox takes a deep dive into why 2018 will be critical to determining how gerrymandering will define the next decade. Governors races in key states this fall will make a big difference in the redistricting battles to come in 2021 and beyond. Those battles, in turn, may determine everything from health care to LGBT rights to environmental policy to civil rights to national security for the next decade.

So yeah, the election in 46 days is a big deal. It's important that the elections are fair and open to all eligible voters.


2. Why is New York so bad at elections?

The Statue of Liberty, covering her facePlenty of red states are deservedly criticized for their restrictive voting rules and election systems. But most of the worst GOP-controlled states are actually better than New York when it comes to open access to elections. New York offers no early voting, has complex voter registration requirements, and routinely suffers from long lines and delays at polling places. 

As result, New York has one of the lowest voter participation rates in the nation. In addition to limited voter access and difficult registration rules, New York's confusing and mismanaged elections (state and federal primaries are on different days) discourage voter participation. The culprit in the Empire State, it seems, is gridlock within the state government, rather than a cynical effort to suppress voting, but the outcome is the same: thousands of voters are disenfranchised.


3. Ted Cruz's scary, no-good, tricky mailer to voters

More than a million Texas voters recently got a letter in their mailbox that looked like this: 

Cruz mailer
This "summons" letter includes a fundraising message from Ted Cruz that also looks a lot like a government form:

Ted Cruz "Summons" letter

To the eyes of an elderly voter or someone skimming it quickly, it might easily be mistaken as an official letter from the county. And with the word “summons” prominently listed three times in big bold type, it’s easy to imagine someone in their 80s or 90s being confused or alarmed by the “summons” and feeling that the request to fill out the form and submit a check was required. 

The Cruz campaign maintains that these “summons” mailers are not only legal, but are “one of their most effective ways to campaign.”  

Technically legal or not, the letter is plainly deceptive. It’s a fake-out. Whether or not a recipient figured it out or not by the end, it’s clearly a campaign message disguised as a government “summons.” Yes, the letter indicates that the message is from Ted Cruz, but that information would be easy for many to miss. The mailer may be legal, but it’s shady and deceptive. Maybe that's fitting, given the source: Ted Cruz has a long history for lies and shameless distortions.

4. Experts to Georgia: Your paperless electronic machines are insecure and hackable! Georgia: We're good.

Georgia is one the last states in the nation to rely on electronic machines without paper trails. Experts warn that digital voting machines without paper audits are dangerously insecure. The state refused to update its systems before 2016 and again before this year's election, including a closely-fought race for governor of the state. A group of Georgia voters and election security activists sued the state to force it to adopt paper ballots or use more modern machines with paper audits in this year's midterm elections, but on Monday, a judge ruled against the plaintiffs, allowing the existing, insecure electronic voting machines to remain in place


5. If the courts won't fix gerrymandering, maybe voters can.

The Pew Charitable Trusts takes a close look at how gerrymandering opponents in many states, fed up with endless legal delays and nondecisions, are fighting to overcome partisan and racially-motivated redistricting through ballot initiatives this fall. Talking Points Memo takes a similar deep dive into efforts to fix gerrymandering this November, but wonders if they can muster enough voter enthusiasm to win the battles


6. Read "One Person, No Vote"

Cover of "One Person, No Vote"I'm a third of the way into One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy by Dr. Carol Anderson. She covers various elements of voter suppression, with a particular focus on how these efforts have consciously targeted African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.

Here's a passage that sticks out to me, as she considers about the drop in African American voter turnout in 2016 and counters the conventional wisdom that it was a failure of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton or the Democratic Party's ideas:

Minority voters did not just refuse to show up; Republican legislatures and governors systematically blocked African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans from the polls. Pushed by both the impending demographic collapse of the Republican Party, whose overwhelmingly white constituency is becoming an ever smaller share of the electorate, and the GOP’s extremist inability to craft policies that speak to an increasingly diverse nation, the Republicans opted to disfranchise rather than reform. The GOP, therefore, enacted a range of undemocratic and desperate measures to block the access of African American, Latino, and other minority voters to the ballot box. Using a series of voter suppression tactics, the GOP harassed, obstructed, frustrated, and purged American citizens from having a say in their own democracy.

Dr. Anderson makes some bold claims here, but the book backs it up. It's well reported and beautifully written. It's alarming and frustrating. It's a damn good read.

If this issue matters to you, please check it out.