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While the same-sex marriage and Affordable Care Act cases are the most significant of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014–15 term in general and specifically affecting states, other cases will significantly impact states too. The court decided three tax cases, a Medicaid reimbursement case, two redistricting cases and a Fair Housing Act disparate impact case.

Voters who want to share a selfie with their marked ballot on Election Day need to think twice. Many states make it a crime to take photos or videos in the voting booth, and at least one state has adopted strict new penalties for sharing your ballot selfie via social media. States with such bans say the laws are necessary to ensure ballot secrecy and discourage vote selling, but election officials say the prohibitions are tough to enforce. In an era where more and more voters have smartphones, states are grappling with just how smart it is to ban ballot selfies.

It’s not just cold air slamming against warm that creates disasters. Disasters come from a variety of threats: rising rivers and unprecedented snowfalls, cyberattacks and infectious diseases. There are also other kinds of risks, such as inadequate budgets and shifting political sands. Regardless of the cause, the consequences are predictable and can be tragic. Disasters hurt people and property. They tear lives apart. They can make political careers or bring them to a screeching halt. Disasters can change the course of history. While disasters can be difficult and present challenges to a neighborhood, community, state and a nation, their impact can be mitigated through strong and decisive action. Often, the only thing standing between the worst outcomes and manageable ones are citizens and public officials who refuse to be helpless pawns or victims, but instead prepare for the inevitable, conduct a thorough response and develop together a well-thought out recovery that acknowledges evolving threats without fear.

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration made several recommendations in its report to the President which draw attention to the need to modernize voter registration in the United States. This article highlights the recommendations which have been demonstrated by states to be successful policies while also addressing existing federal laws governing the registration of voters.

Mixed messages of the current economy keep at bay a full recovery from the Great Recession that officially ended in June 2009. The drop in oil prices has put money in consumers’ pockets, but these consumers seem wary of returning it into circulation, with many using the extra cash to pay off or reduce personal debt. In some ways, governors are similarly disposed as they map the policy and budget way forward for their respective states. Several chief executives are asking for more stringent laws, constitutional requirements, for budget balance or regarding the payment of debt, to keep their states on a path toward fiscal sustainability. Watch words this year include “cautious optimism” and “continuous improvement.”1 

Over a decade ago, States began to explore the use of electronic technology in the U.S. military and overseas voting process. This article explores the varying policy solutions and technology platforms administered by Alaska, Arizona and Washington as well as emerging federal requirements affecting U.S. military and overseas voters. 

There were many issues facing governors in 2014. Even as the stock market rebounded and state budgets grew at a moderate pace, unemployment and underemployment remained high. Public discontent with government has been indiscriminate in its focus, levied at not only politicians in Washington, but also those in state capitals. This led to political fallout from voters as they vented their anger and frustration on elected leaders on Election Day.1

Voters looked favorably on ballot propositions in 2014, approving 67 percent of the 158 measures they decided. Marijuana advocates scored important victories in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., and minimum wage advocates continued their unbroken run of successful measures in five more states.

Every state has a system for asking voters to show that they are who they say they are. The most restrictive of such laws have drawn court challenge. This litigation is as varied as the voter ID regimes: cases have proceeded on different facts in different contexts, under different legal theories. 

Fiscal conditions for states were somewhat mixed in the 2014 fiscal year as state general fund revenue growth declined due to the impact of the federal fiscal cliff, while total state spending growth accelerated due to increased federal Medicaid funds from the Affordable Care Act. The number of states making midyear budget cuts remained low and states maintained stable rainy day fund levels. In the 2015 fiscal year, states are expecting both revenue and spending to grow slowly, but below the historical rate of growth. It is likely that budget proposals for the 2016 fiscal year and beyond will remain mostly cautious with limited spending growth.

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