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The Council of State Governments, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Defense, launched a $3.2 million Overseas Voting Initiative in late 2013 to improve the U.S. overseas voting process. CSG is working to develop policy solutions to ensure that overseas voters have the tools to vote while serving their nation abroad. That effort will be the subject of a workshop 9-11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 11, during the CSG National and CSG West Annual Conference.

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To explain Minnesota’s nation-leading election figures — high percentages of eligible voters who are registered, for example, and who turn out on Election Day — Rep. Steve Simon doesn’t start by talking about his home state’s laws.
He begins with a factor that is unwritten and transcends generations.
“Minnesota has a civic culture that encourages and celebrates voting,” he says. “It isn’t something you can legislate.”
Across much the Midwest, in fact, that tradition of civic engagement is strong; voter turnout rates, for example, are higher than the national average — sometimes much higher in states such as Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.
But while state election laws don’t tell the whole story, their importance in the nation’s democratic system is widely understood, with the recent political and legal battles over voter identification being perhaps the most prominent recent example.

Most states have state laws prohibiting false statements against candidates.  Are they constitutional?  Well the Supreme Court didn’t decide…

In Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus the Supreme Court held unanimously that Susan B. Anthony List (SBA) had alleged a “sufficiently imminent injury” to bring a preenforcement challenge to the constitutionality of Ohio’s campaign “false statements” statute.  

In Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama the Supreme Court will decide whether Alabama’s redistricting plan violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by intentionally packing black voters into districts already containing a majority of black voters. 

The Alabama legislature’s 2010 redistricting plan maintains the number of House and Senate majority-black districts.  But because most of the majority-black districts were underpopulated, the Legislature “redrew the districts by shifting more black voters into the majority-black districts to maintain the same relative percentages of black voters in those districts.” Black voters allege that packing them into super-majority districts limits their potential influence in other jurisdictions.

More than 5.85 million Americans - nearly 1 in 40 adults - have lost the right to vote due to a felony conviction. Only two states - Maine and Vermont - do not restrict the rights of felons to vote. The remaining states have widely differing laws regarding how and when felons may regain the right to vote.

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released its latest Elections Performance Index, or EPI, which now includes an interactive tool that allows states to compare their election administration performance to one another and across similar elections. The annual Pew study measures election administration by evaluting indicators like wait times at polling locations and voter turnout. The report found that, between 2008 and 2012, state election performance overall improved by 4.4 percentage points, and 40 states plus DC improved their score over the same time frame. 

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For the first time in Illinois, most of the state’s 17-year-olds had the chance to cast ballots in this year’s primary elections. Their participation was the result of a bill passed by the General Assembly in 2013. HB 226 opened up voting to 17-year-olds who will turn 18 before the general election. According to the Chicago Tribune, the measure received widespread bipartisan support, with proponents saying it would encourage young people to get involved in the political process.

The biggest cases of the Supreme Court’s term generally come down at the end of June. The campaign finance case probably makes most Court watchers' big three (or at least big five) list.  But, in an unusual move, the opinion came down the first week of April.  

The Court struck down aggregate limits on individual contributions to candidates for federal office, political parties, and political action committees.  McCutcheon v. FEC will likely impact the dozen or so states that place aggregate limits on individual campaign contributions to candidates for state office.    

Kamanzi Kalisa, a former director of Georgia’s Help America Vote Act, will lead The Council of State Governments’ Overseas Voting Initiative, an effort to improve the election administration of members of the military and other U.S. citizens living abroad.

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As early as the late 18th century, political leaders such as Thomas Jefferson were pondering a political question left open to each state: How should our Electoral College votes be awarded? Fast-forward to this year, and Nebraska legislators were debating the same question. Right now, the Cornhusker State is one of two U.S. states without a winner-take-all system, in which all of the electors go to the presidential candidate who wins the statewide vote.

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