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Judicial Elections Public Financing: Balancing Independent Courts and Voter Choice

Once the sleepy backwater of electoral politics, judicial elections have recently become a battleground where right wing and corporate groups spend large sums to fill the courts with jurists who will support their interests.  This is perhaps the most troubling example of money corrupting our politics, because instead of pay-to-play politics it gives us pay-to-win justice.  The independence of the judiciary simply cannot be maintained in an environment where jurists are competing for votes in high-priced, bare-knuckle political brawls. 

Rising Unemployment Highlights Need for Federal Expansion of Unemployment Insurance Funds

While the financial crisis has received more of the headlines, there has been a growing unemployment crisis over the last year.  With unemployment at a five-year high, nearly 10 million Americans were officially unemployed last month, with nearly 500,000 workers applying for benefits each week.  And the problem doesn't stop there, with long-term joblessness rising:

Gay Marriage - In the Courts, On the Ballot

Last week, Connecticut's high court struck down the state's civil union law and ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.  Connecticut joins Massachusetts and California as the only states that recognize gay marriage.  As the New York Times reported, the Connecticut ruling is notable because it found for the first time that a state civil union law, while providing all the legal rights of marriage to gay couples but limiting marriage to heterosexual couples, violated the state's "constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law."

Ballot Initiatives 2008

This Dispatch is a roundup of what ballot initiatives will appear on state ballots across the country this November.  Whether it's workers rights, energy policy, education, transit, abortion or health care, ballot initiates give voters a chance to directly vote on an issue.

Vote Suppression Watch

Now that the party nominating conventions have passed and the presidential race has reached its final leg, voter suppression efforts are shifting into high gear around the country. As each campaign assembles an army of lawyers to protect their interests leading to and on election day, state and local partisans are engaging in a wide variety of tactics to prevent their opponents' supporters from casting a ballot. Once again these underhanded tactics, which we've highlighted before, are predominantly coming from right wing operatives, and the targets are overwhelmingly groups that tend to vote for progressive candidates. Since the beginning of this month the following voters suppression campaigns have been reported:

Reports Find Election Administration in Swing States Not Significantly Improved

Common Cause and The Century Foundation have released the new version of their joint biennial report on election administration in 10 swing states and the findings are not very encouraging: while voters' desire to participate is growing, states have only made fitful progress improving the voting process, and in many instances things have moved backward since the last federal election in 2006.  Examining the most recent election experiences of Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia the report details serious problems in every major aspect of the voting process, along with a handful of bright spots where individual states are moving important reforms.

Making College Affordable for All

The benefits of a post-secondary degree are plentiful.  For example, an employee with a four year college degree earns 60 percent more than a worker with only a high school diploma. Paying for college, however, has become a daunting task and strain for many American students and families.  The cost of higher education across the country is rapidly increasing, at almost double the rate of inflation, outpacing increases in financial aid and many families ability to pay.  The combination of these factors result in too many students being unable to earn or complete their degrees due to financial constraints.

A Worrisome Trend in State Health Care Reform

Instead of working to make good coverage available to all residents, Florida and Georgia are
leading a new wave of state proposals to push the uninsured and
low-income Americans into high deductible and limited benefit health
plans.  Backed by Newt Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation
and playing the tune of John McCain's health care plans, the Florida
and Georgia proposals are signs of what's to come from the Right in
future state and federal health care debates.