IL floats marijuana legalization bill

Announced by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Saturday morning, a proposed law to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Illinois would allow possession of up to 30 grams of the plant for residents 21 and over, a $20 million low-interest loan program to promote “social equity” in marijuana-related business ownership, and expungement of misdemeanor and Class 4 felony marijuana convictions.

Joshua Douglas: 10 ideas that might save democracy

“[H]ardly anyone seems satisfied with how their own elections are run. But there is actually a lot of good news out there on voting rights and election reform. Some communities are expanding the electorate by enfranchising more people. Voter registration has become effortless, and Election Day is now more convenient in certain places. Structural changes to how we cast ballots have reduced voter apathy. Innovative public financing options have made it easier for more people to run for office and actually have a chance to win.”

Pious Ali: Open-primary bill would make election system more inclusive

“In March 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress, announcing his intention to submit what would become known as the Voting Rights Act. … That evening, addressing our nation’s leaders, President Johnson explained, ‘This time, on this issue, there must be no delay, or no hesitation, or no compromise with our purpose. We cannot, we must not, refuse to protect the right of every American to vote in every election that he may desire to participate in.’ President Johnson was right. We must protect and reaffirm the right of all voters to participate in every election, including those who are unenrolled independents.”

The Columbian: Gerrymandering is biggest threat to democracy

“[Q]uestions about voter eligibility have ranged from efforts to remove minorities from voter rolls to suggestions that people who are incarcerated should be allowed to vote. Those are complex issues, but the conundrum of illegal gerrymandering should be easy to fix. Other states should be quick to adopt Washington’s bipartisan approach to drawing congressional and legislative districts.”

Jamelle Bouie: The Republican war on democracy

“Americans have long struggled over the scope of voting and representation. Democracy is — and always will be — a fight. And the lines of this particular conflict are clear. Rather than try to expand our democracy or even preserve it as it stands, Republicans are fighting for a smaller, narrower one that favors their voters over all others so that their power and the interests they serve become untouchable.”

Federal court rules MI congressional map gerrymandered

A federal court in Michigan says the state’s Republican-controlled legislature unfairly drew some of the state’s state legislative and U.S. House district lines and that a divided government will have to come up with new boundaries. A panel of three judges said 27 of 34 challenged districts diluted the weight of people’s votes, and that every challenged district is unconstitutional.

Voting gets easier in KS

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has signed a new voting bill that amends the law concerning advance ballots, signature requirements, and polling places. Her office says it will expand voting opportunities and make voting more convenient. “Over the past decade, we have seen countless efforts aimed at making voting more difficult in this state,” the governor said. “I hope this will be the first of many laws that help ensure that every voice is heard in our democratic process and that every vote is counted.”

LA Times Editorial Board: Gerrymandering distorts democracy

“[Justices] Gorsuch and Kavanaugh raised the question of whether the [Supreme Court] needed to act at all, given that several states have moved on their own to combat gerrymandering, such as by entrusting congressional redistricting to an independent, nonpartisan citizens commission, as California has done. Those developments are welcome, but they don’t provide a nationwide solution grounded in the Constitution. The court must stop its agonizing and provide one.”

Dan McCready: My ‘loss’ will be a win for voting rights

Dan McCready, the Democratic candidate in North Carolina’s 9th District who “lost” the election last November in an outrageous attack on democracy, says ultimately the experience will open eyes to the critical importance of voting reform. “I have come to realize this fight is bigger now than a seat in Congress. It is not just about country over party now, but about the basic protection of voting rights, the cornerstone of democracy. That is a fight worth fighting.”

FL fights to finally fix flaws

Seemingly every year, Florida has issues with elections. Poor ballot design in Broward County. Inadequate voting machines in Palm Beach County. Problems statewide with tight recount deadlines and mismatched vote-by-mail signatures. Tired of being a laughingstock, the state is getting serious about reform with a bill that advanced in the Florida Senate on Tuesday.

Automatic voter registration a hit in OR

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday called her state’s switch to a system that automatically registers voters a “phenomenal success,” adding that the move has led to a more diversified electorate in the state as well as an increase in voter registration among minorities. “Voting is a fundamental right of being a citizen, and people across the country should have the ability to access this fundamental right without barriers like registration,” she said.

Time’s Up CEO resigns after son accused of sexual assault

Time’s Up, which campaigns against sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace, has now disclosed that Lisa Borders informed members of the organization’s leadership last Friday that “sexual assault allegations had been made against her son in a private forum,” and that she would be stepping down.

Election reforms proposed in IA

The Iowa Democratic Party is proposing the biggest changes to the state’s famed caucuses in nearly 50 years. The measure would allow six “virtual caucuses” over the phone for those unable to attend in-person — an issue for working people and the elderly. Participants will rank their top five choices. The new system is intended to be in place for 2020, though the proposal won’t be finalized until the spring.

In with Election Day, out with Columbus Day

Officials in the city of Sandusky, Ohio, have decided that the city will no longer observe Columbus Day as a holiday, switching it for Election Day. The new rule, which takes effect this year, will give workers in all municipal offices the day off on Election Day, typically the first Tuesday in November.

Reform opponents get more PAC money

The 206 members of the House of Representatives who haven’t agreed to support H.R. 1 — a major democracy reform package that would make sweeping changes to the nation’s campaign finance, voting rights, and ethics laws — typically received about $150,000 more from corporate political action committees during the midterm elections than sponsors of the measure, according to a MapLight analysis.

EPA refusing to limit 2 toxic chemicals in drinking water

The EPA’s decision means the chemicals will remain unregulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to a still unreleased draft plan that was signed off on in late December. Under the current plan, utilities face no federal requirements for testing for and removing the chemicals from drinking water supplies, although several states have pushed for their own limits.

30,000 Los Angeles teachers set to strike

The strike comes after 20 months of tense negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District. The parties will continue to meet throughout the week, but it appears unlikely they will reach an agreement before Monday.