A Democracy Check-Up

A round-up of state democracy news from around the country

A Round-up Of State Democracy News From Around The Country

Earlier this week, CAP Action released an 89-page report and accompanying interactive website that identifies 22 factors in three categories—accessibility of the ballot, representation in state government, and influence in the political system—to rank and grade states based on their democratic health. Many issues are encompassed in the 22 factors, and one of the key findings of the report was that every state has room to improve. There’s lots of activity in states on these issues, but not all of it is heading in the right direction. Here is a roundup of what has happened on voting and democracy issues since the report was released:

Florida Redistricting: According to CAP Action’s report, Florida’s Congressional districts skew 7.8 percent towards Republicans. That is just one of several factors that contributed to the state’s “D” grade on representation, which measured how closely a state’s elected officials reflect its population. Yesterday, the Florida Supreme Court confirmed the injustices in the state’s district maps and ordered that the state’s Congressional districts be redrawn.

Virginia Redistricting: Virginia ranks 50 out of 51 overall and gets an “F” in Representation, according to the report. The state’s congressional districts are already under attack from a federal lawsuit and another lawsuit is set to examine the maps’ fitness under the constitution.

Missouri Voter ID: This week, Jay Ashcroft, a Republican running for Secretary of State in Missouri, started circulating a petition to require a photo ID to vote. Missouri already received an “F” in accessibility, which measures how accessible voting is for citizens. Photo ID laws only make things worse: they are proven to raise the barriers to voting and decrease turnout, especially among people of color and seniors.

New Jersey Voter Reform Package: New Jersey is on its way to keeping its D+ accessibility grade. This week legislators were set to pass a comprehensive voter reform package (called the Democracy Act!) that would significantly increase voter access by introducing online voter registration, in-person early voting, and pre-registration for 17-year-olds among other reforms. But Gov. Chris Christie, perhaps trying to burnish his right-wing credentials on the national stage, looks likely to veto the bill.

BOTTOM LINE: From better voter access to a state government more representative of its citizens, every state has room to improve the health of its democracy. Photo ID laws and skewed congressional maps make it harder for citizens to participate in the democratic process and lead to an unrepresentative democracy. Redrawing congressional district maps and passing voter reform packages that make voting more accessible are steps in the right direction, but there is more to be done. Check out what your state needs to improve on the most at healthofstatedemocracies.org and share it using the hashtag #HealthyDemocracy.

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