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As states harness technology to modernize their election systems, no area of policymaking has more momentum than voter registration. Online registration, automatic voter registration and Election Day registration are increasingly popular options, with election officials predicting unprecedented levels of eligible voter enrollment and government cost-savings in 2016. Yet as states move away from inefficient paper forms to embrace digital processes, new questions are emerging about verifying, sharing and securing voter registration data. 

A comparison of U.S. Census data for 2013 and 2014, released in early 2016, shows that a greater portion of Americans in each state had health insurance in the more recent year. Nearly 8.5 million individuals gained health insurance coverage between 2013 and 2014. In 2014, all the provisions of the Affordable Care Act designed to increase access to affordable insurance were in place for states. Some states, however, decided not to expand income eligibility for Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level as the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 was the prerogative of the states, not Congress. The states that showed the greatest increase in coverage between 2013 and 2014 were states that expanded Medicaid income eligibility.

A detailed look at two issues impacting judges: The unsuccessful push by judges to increase or repeal mandatory judicial retirement ages, and the ongoing struggle judges have maintaining established judicial benefits.

Overall, state fiscal conditions showed modest improvements in fiscal year 2015. Revenue growth accelerated, mostly due to strong income tax collections, while total state spending from all fund sources increased at its fastest rate since 1992 due to additional federal funds from the Affordable Care Act. In addition, the number of states making mid-year budget cuts remained low, and states’ total balances reached an all-time high in actual dollar terms. In fiscal 2016, states expect both revenue and spending to grow slowly. However, some states are facing significant budgetary challenges associated with the decline in oil prices. It is likely that budget proposals for fiscal 2017 and beyond will remain mostly cautious with limited spending growth.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, launched an initiative in 2014 to encourage issuers and underwriters of municipal securities to self-report certain violations of the federal securities laws rather than wait for their violations to be detected. The Municipalities Continuing Disclosure Cooperation, or MCDC, Initiative is intended to address widespread violations of the federal securities laws by municipal issuers and underwriters in connection with certain representations about continuing disclosures in bond offering documents. The SEC began issuing fines and penalties against underwriters in July 2015, and is now turning its attention to issuers.

The 2000 Election debacle led to the creation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). This article discusses whether the promise of HAVA, to modernize American elections, has been met, and reviews the current trends and innovations happening in elections across the country. The emerging technologies are making this an exciting time, but elections remain a people-driven and people-serving process, and we need to continue to encourage people to get involved as election specialists and poll workers.

State courts adopted unprecedented cost-saving strategies and innovations during the Great Recession. Today, courts continue to embrace this legacy of innovation to maintain, and even improve, the administration of justice. The projects featured in this article highlight the large gains and potential for future innovation in the state courts.

The sweeping diversity explosion now underway in the U.S. will continue to impact the political landscape as the racial profiles of the electorate and voters continue to change. Testament to this is the election of the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, which can be attributed, in large part, to a growing minority electorate both nationally and in previously Republican-leaning Sun Belt states. This article reviews the nation’s new racial demographic shifts with an eye to how it has changed the electorate and outcomes of the past three presidential elections, and suggesting what it may mean for the future.

Several situations in 2015 and 2016 challenged the attorney general’s role as representative of the state in litigation and his or her ability to determine when to seek judicial review, particularly in connection with policy issues that are being hotly debated. Additionally, attorneys general have the vital task of cooperatively enforcing state laws and promoting sound law enforcement policies. To that end, the second half of this article covers police body-worn cameras as part of a national AG initiative on 21st century policing.

The American public expects customer service in their everyday activities and voters are no exception. The election community has an opportunity to improve the absentee voting process for military and overseas citizens by communicating to them at each stage of progression toward a counted ballot. Adopting this practice can help empower a set of voters who may otherwise have serious doubts about their votes being counted.

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