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A woman places her vote into the ballot box on March 5, 2016 in Bowling Green, Ky. (Photo by Austin Anthony/Daily News/AP)

Voting rights took a step forward in 2018 elections

11/07/18 10:42AM

It's been a while since voting-rights advocates had reason to celebrate, but the latest election results were clearly a step in a progressive direction. The most dramatic change occurred in Michigan.

Michigan ... passed a law significantly changing the way the state's political lines are drawn for congressional and state legislative districts. The amendment will take the power to draw those lines out of the hands of state lawmakers, as the Detroit Free Press explains, and put it into the hands of an independent redistricting commission made up of four Republicans, four Democrats and five people who identify with neither party.

The state also approved a wide-ranging amendment that will allow people to register to vote on Election Day and will institute automatic voter registration. It will also allow voters to request an absentee ballot for any reason.

Nevada also adopted automatic voter registration, bringing the new total of states with AVR to 16. Yes, that's only a third of the country, but given that automatic voter registration didn't exist in any states as recently as three years ago, it's a progressive reform that's clearly catching on quickly.

But it's not just AVR. Voters in Florida approved a measure to restore voting rights for many with prior felonies. In Kansas, voters rejected the gubernatorial candidacy of Kris Kobach, one of the nation's voter-suppression pioneers.

In Colorado and Missouri, voters agreed to overhaul the redistricting process to end gerrymandering. (Utah may have done the same thing, but votes on the state's Proposition 4 are still being tallied.)

In Maryland, voters agreed to allow same-day voter registration.

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Protesters gather outside the state Capitol in Madison, Wis. on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011.

Democrats find their footing in several Rust Belt states

11/07/18 10:05AM

Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Democrats weren't just optimistic because of the polls. They also spent quite a bit of time fiddling with sites like 270 to Win, exploring different scenarios with the electoral college, and concluding that Donald Trump's path to the White House simply didn't exist.

After all, the Clinton/Kaine ticket could lose several of the battleground states Barack Obama had won at least once -- Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina -- and still win the election thanks to the "blue wall" in the Rust Belt.

Before 2016, in six of the previous six presidential elections, Michigan and Pennsylvania had voted Democratic. In Wisconsin, it was seven of the previous seven. So long as these three states remained in the "blue" column, Hillary Clinton would be the next president.

We now know, of course, that this didn't happen. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin each went "red."

Two years later, these same three states appeared to swing back in the other direction.

Michigan: Voters in Michigan elected a Democratic governor, re-elected a Democratic U.S. senator, and picked up enough state Senate seats to end the GOP's supermajority. Though some votes are still being counted, Democratic candidates also appear to be well positioned in the race for state attorney general and in the closely watched race in the 8th congressional district, which appears set to flip from "red" to "blue."

Pennsylvania: Voters in Pennsylvania re-elected a Democratic governor, re-elected a Democratic U.S. senator, and erased the GOP's supermajority in the state Senate. Democrats also appear to have flipped four congressional districts in the state from "red" to "blue."

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A man holds a sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare in Miami, Fla in 2015. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

Health care was on the ballot in 2018, and it won big

11/07/18 09:20AM

It was just a few weeks ago when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said out loud what was widely assumed to be true: if Republicans held onto their congressional majorities, the GOP would try again to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Last week, Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, endorsed a similar strategy.

That plan is now dead. With Democrats retaking the House majority, the Affordable Care Act had a good day at the ballot box. Republicans may yet be able to undermine the nation's health care system, but they'll need to rely on the courts because voters just ended the repeal crusade.

For health care advocates, that's just the start of the good news.

Three red states approved Medicaid expansion in Tuesday's midterm elections, changes that will potentially cover hundreds of thousands more low-income Americans, NBC News projected.

Voters in Utah, Nebraska and Idaho were all expected to pass ballot measures to broaden the federal and state health insurance program, according to NBC.

All told, as a result of these ballot measures, more than 300,000 low-income Americans are poised to gain health care coverage. The new total of states that have embraced Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act will now grow to 36.

It gets better: with Democrats winning big in Maine, and Gov. Paul LePage (R) exiting the stage, the future for Medicaid expansion in the state appears bright, and in Kansas, where voters elected a Democratic governor, it's likely we'll see the Sunflower State join the club.

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House 'popular vote' gives Democrats something to brag about

11/07/18 08:48AM

In the 1994 midterms, Republicans posted huge gains and took control of Congress. Time magazine published a cover image of a powerful, triumphant elephant crushing a donkey, under a headline that called it a "GOP stampede."

Republicans had reason to crow at the time: by a 7.1% margin, American voters had backed GOP candidates over Democratic candidates.

Nearly a quarter of a century later, Democrats apparently won the House "popular vote" by 7%.

I realize Republicans, benefiting from a Senate map that was almost comically titled in their favor, are thrilled to see their majority grow in the upper chamber. I can also appreciate why many Democrats were disappointed to see some heartbreaking losses in key contests, especially in Florida.

But the scope of the House Democratic victories was rather extraordinary. I put together the above chart based on the findings from Princeton's Sam Wang, who highlighted the popular-vote gap in House races in several recent cycles.

House Republicans, for example, had excellent years in 1994 and 2010, but House Democrats kept pace with these tallies.

Some observers will no doubt ask in response, "Then why didn't Democrats win even more seats?" The answer is a familiar one: between Republican gerrymandering and concentration of Democratic votes in urban areas, the party faced an enormous challenge even trying to take back the House of Representatives.

But they did anyway.

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Image: 58th U.S. Presidential Inauguration

Why the new House Democratic majority will make Trump miserable

11/07/18 08:00AM

In April, Donald Trump hosted a dinner with Republican congressional leaders, who tried to deliver a stern warning to the president about the 2018 midterm elections. They were concerned about the party's hold on congressional power, and as the New York Times  reported, GOP leaders feared Trump did not "grasp the gravity" of the situation.

If [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's] warning was not clear enough, Marc Short, the White House's legislative liaison, used the dinner to offer an even starker assessment. The G.O.P.'s House majority is all but doomed, he said.

But Mr. Trump was not moved. "That's not going to happen," he said.

That's exactly what happened.

If his tweets this morning are any indication, the president appears to be taking a victory lap, due entirely to the fact that Republicans, taking advantage of the most favorable Senate map in American history, expanded their majority in the upper chamber. Trump, at least publicly, considers this year's midterms a "tremendous success" and a "big victory" for the GOP.

Whether or not he genuinely believes this is unclear, but if the president is feeling some optimism in the wake of the results, he's kidding himself.

To the extent that the White House has a legislative agenda, it is now effectively dead. Making matters worse, rejecting Trump's far-right proposals isn't the only way the new Democratic majority in the House is going to make Trump quite miserable.

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Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.


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