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Last month, researchers from the Electoral Integrity Project scored North Carolina's overall electoral integrity at 58/100, placing it alongside the likes of Cuba, Indonesia, and Sierra Leone in terms of fostering free and fair and democratic elections. Not exactly the best of company. So bad, in fact, that those in charge of the study didn't consider our twelfth state a democracy.

While North Carolina was lacking in terms of legal framework and voter registration, the main points of contention were its voting district boundaries. "North Carolina is not only the worst state in the USA for unfair districting," according to the EIP, "but the worst entity in the world."

It seems a federal court in North Carolina agreed, ordering the state to redraw its congressional map. It marks the first time a federal court has blocked a state's congressional map because of partisan gerrymandering.

While the matter of Masterpiece Cakeshop was argued before the Supreme Court in December, a ruling as yet to be issued. And in the meantime, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided another case of bakers refusing to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, upholding a $135,000 fine against Aaron and Melissa Klein for discrimination under state law.

It was the third ruling against the Kleins' now-closed Sweet Cakes by Melissa, but its validity could depend on what the Supreme Court does this term.

As the Supreme Court said in one of the seminal free-speech-in-school cases, "It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate." So if students still have First Amendment rights on school grounds, what about speech that takes place outside of school? And do "likes" on social media posts fall under freedom of speech protections?

A student at a high school in the Bay Area started a racist Instagram account, and had other students interacting with the posts. A federal judge just ruled that the school could discipline those students for their social media activity, even off-campus.

Maryland was already one of the ten toughest states when it comes to gun control laws. And then the state's General Assembly banned the sale of military-style rifles and detachable magazines in 2013, in the wake of the deadly shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Guns rights groups challenged the Firearm Safety Act on Second Amendment grounds, but it was upheld by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. As expected, that decision was appealed to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case, leaving the Fourth's Circuit's decision in place.

Most public officials or departments have some social media presence from the President of the United States on Twitter (who tweets from two different accounts) to the local township trustee on Facebook. And these accounts can raise some interesting First Amendment issues, especially when it comes to blocking access to posts.

Just a few months ago, Twitter users blocked by President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit claiming they are being denied access to a public forum. Likewise, in Ohio, residents in Warren County sued the Hamilton Township Trustee for censoring differing opinions on his public official Facebook page. While the former lawsuit is still being litigated, the latter was settled last week, with David Wallace, Jr. agreeing to unblock residents and stop deleting posts.

In yet another legal defeat of a Trump executive order in federal court, the District Court for the District of Columbia found likely that the administration's attempted "exclusion of transgender individuals from the military is unconstitutional."

"There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effective on the military at all," Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote, granting an injunction against President Trump's order. "In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects." The ruling puts the preceding status quo back into effect, whereby openly transgender individuals can join the military and rise through the ranks.

The District of Columbia has been notoriously aggressive with gun legislation, making the D.C. Circuit ground zero for legal battles over the Second Amendment. The latest skirmish -- over whether residents must prove a "special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general community as supported by evidence of specific threats or previous attacks that demonstrate a special danger to the applicant's life" in order to obtain a carry permit -- appears to be over in the circuit court, and may be headed a few blocks over to the Supreme Court.

In July, a three-judge D.C. Circuit panel invalidated the District's gun ordinance, and last week the circuit denied the District's request for an en banc rehearing before the entire court. D.C. can request for review from the Supreme Court, a request most think the Court would grant.

A meager $35 per person tax for residents of Portland, Oregon, used to fund art and music education for school children, has been ruled constitutional by the state's Supreme Court. Despite the state's constitution banning head taxes (taxes that are imposed on everyone uniformly regardless of the ability to pay), the state's highest court ruled that the law's many exemptions allowed it to pass constitutional muster.

Ordinarily, under Oregon law, a head tax would be ruled unconstitutional. However, the fact that the arts education tax exempts social security income, income derived from the state pension program, and those below the poverty line, went a long way to convincing every court that heard the challenge that the tax met the legal requirements.

Over two years after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, same-sex couples are still battling on the fringes for the same rights as heterosexual couples. And when it comes to parental rights, those battles -- for custody, visitation, even access to a spouse and child during and after childbirth -- can be fierce.

The Arizona Supreme Court leaned on that U.S. Supreme Court ruling to settle one of those battles, pertaining to parental rights under the state's paternity statute. Only there was no "pater" in this case -- it involved two female spouses, and the rights of the non-biological parent.

In Washington, DC, the right to carry a gun in public has been the center of much debate and controversy for several decades. However, over the last several years, DC has been faced with challenges to the safety restrictions imposed on gun ownership.

Just this week, one of those challenges was actually successful in dismantling a statute that made it illegal to carry a concealed weapon in the District without a permit. The permits would only be provided to individuals who could show a compelling need or a good reason for being allowed to carry a concealed handgun. For instance, carrying valuables or cash for work, being targeted for violence in the past, or needing to protect a vulnerable family member, all could potentially qualify a person for a permit.