Opinion | America’s Pro-Democracy Movement

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First, the latest California wildfires are horrifying to watch. The death toll is rising, and thousands of buildings have been destroyed, along with large swaths of natural habitat. The fires are the result of two dangerous trends, explains Grist’s Eric Holthaus: more people moving to fire-prone areas and hotter, drier weather — in part thanks to climate change — that helps fires grow.

Another midterm winner. You know what did very well on election night last week? Democracy.

A handful of states approved pro-democracy measures, often by wide margins. These measures are expected to make voter registration easier, reduce gerrymandering and give back the franchise to people with past felony convictions.

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These ideas are popular with liberals, centrists and a good number of conservatives too. And progressive activists have come to understand that this issue needs to be one of their top priorities. If the quality of our democracy doesn’t improve, many other policy priorities could be impossible to achieve.

I think the United States finally has the pro-democracy movement that it needs — a movement not only to fight back against efforts by Republican leaders to make voting harder but also to go on the offensive. My column today is about that pro-democracy movement and what should come next for it.

A couple of my own priorities are universal voting by mail and a voting age younger than 18. What democratic changes do you think are most important? Drop me an email with your thoughts, at [email protected]

On the same topic: Although the election is still too close to be called, Utah may join the list of states that have restricted gerrymandering through last week’s ballot initiative. The initiative holds a narrow lead in the latest vote count, writes Ben Lockhart of The Deseret News.

Two other important outcomes would be losses of anti-voter officials in Arizona and North Carolina. And both may happen, Daniel Nichanian notes (here and here). Nichanian, a political scientist, wrote a voting-rights manifesto for Vox in 2016 that remains relevant.

If you want to go deeper into this topic, check out “An Uncivil War,” a new book by Greg Sargent of The Washington Post, whom I frequently quote in this newsletter. Sargent argues that the Trump presidency has created a terrible threat to American democracy — but has also roused people to fight back against that threat.

Count the ballots. The most immediate threats to democracy are in Florida and Georgia, where it remains unclear whether the states are counting all of the ballots cast in this year’s elections. Yesterday, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit in Gwinnett County, Georgia, because of uncounted absentee ballots. “Many of these ballots are from Black, Latino and other voters of color,” writes Kristen Clarke, president of the committee.

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David Leonhardt is a former Washington bureau chief for the Times, and was the founding editor of The Upshot and head of The 2020 Project, on the future of the Times newsroom. He won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, for columns on the financial crisis. @DLeonhardt Facebook

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