Government

Law, power and political participation

RECENT POSTS

Now that You’ve Finished Your Taxes (Hopefully), See What They Actually Pay For

Estimation based on income taxes only (not payroll taxes).

“In this world,” wrote Ben Franklin, “nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.”

On April 15, as the filing deadline closed in, millions of Americans were frantically confronting that latter (but hopefully not former) inevitability. Continue reading

Equal Pay Day: How Big is the Wage Gap Between Men and Women?

April 14 is Equal Pay Day, symbolizing the number of days into 2015 (in addition to all of 2014) that the average American woman would need to work in order to match what the average man made in 2014 alone, according to Department of Labor estimates.

Although the the gender wage gap has significantly narrowed in recent decades, it still persists to a notable degree. According to the DOL, women are paid on average 78 cents for every dollar made by a man. That gap is even wider for women of color. Continue reading

50 Years after “Bloody Sunday,” Still Miles to Go in March for Voting Rights

Selma to Montgomery march, 1965. (Bruce Davidson/Magnum)

Selma to Montgomery march, 1965. (Bruce Davidson/Magnum)

Thousands of marchers joined President Obama and other leaders this weekend in the small city of Selma, Alabama, where 50 years ago police violently attacked peaceful demonstrators demanding the right to vote. Continue reading

The Feverish Roots of Today’s Anti-Vaccination Movement

Cartoon from 1802 illustrating the hysteria that came with the "cowpock" vaccine. (Courtesy Wikimedia)

Cartoon from 1802 illustrating the hysteria that developed alongside the “cowpock” vaccine. (Courtesy Wikimedia)


“Vaccination is the putting of an impure thing into the blood – a virus or poison — often resulting in serious evil effects. In vogue for more than one hundred years, it has been received by most persons without question. Yet the time is passing when people will accept a medical dogma on blind faith.”

– From  “The Fallacy of Vaccination,” a 1911 essay by John Pitcairn, Jr., prominent Pennsylvania industrialist and president of the Anti-Vaccination League of America.

Continue reading

America’s Confusing Patchwork of Abortion Laws: Mapping State Rules and Rates

Includes interactive map and chart

Visualization by Lewis Lehe; story by Matthew Green



On Thursday, the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe vs. Wade decision to legalize abortion nationwide, House Republicans had intended to vote on a proposal banning abortions at the 20-week post-conception period. But rather than approving the so-called “fetal pain” measure, the House swapped it for a watered down bill that would weaken insurance coverage for the procedure. It was a last minute switch was made after a small group of mostly female Republican lawmakers came out strongly opposing the more restrictive measure.

All of which begs the question: what are current abortion laws? Continue reading

A Half-Century After the March on Washington, Would King Be Satisfied?

Includes interactive charts and lesson plan

“What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger?”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

[Jump to charts on where race gap has narrowed or widened]

In late August 1963, on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, a quarter million demonstrators converged on the National Mall in the nation’s capital to partake in what would become one of the largest human rights demonstrations in United States history.

Continue reading

How Felon Voting Laws Could Impact Today’s Election [Map and Infographic]

The map below, created by designer/programmer Lewis Lehe, shows state-by-state felon voting laws and population impacts as reported by the The Sentencing Project, based on 2010 data. Note: among the states that deny voting rights to some felons who have completed the entirety of their sentences (including parole), restrictions vary significantly, and often depend on the severity of the crime.

[See article and infographic below map]

Continue reading

Majority Rules: California’s Proposition System Explained [Infographic]

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, propositions are an entrenched part of California’s political system. In nearly every statewide election, voters wade through a slurry of local and statewide ballot measures, part of a system intended to expand direct democracy. Some are really complicated, some are controversial, and some are just kind of weird (like when voters passed Prop 6 in 1998, making it a felony for anyone to use a horse for meat — including a pony, donkey or mule, or this year’s failed effort to get a measure on the ballot to split California into six states). In next week’s midterm election, Californians will decide on six statewide propositions, in addition to a likely host of county and local measures.

So how do propositions actually make it onto the ballot? What are the different types? And what exactly is a referendum anyway? Comic journalist Andy Warner demystifies the Golden State’s century-old process.  Continue reading

Bay Area Ballot Measures Relevant to Young Folks: A Youth Radio Prop Guide

Includes interactive youth voter guide

youthVoting for the first time can be exciting, empowering and — if you head to the polls without doing your homework — downright daunting. That’s especially true in California, where voters are typically asked to weigh in on a litany of issues and candidates for both statewide and local races.

Next week’s midterm election on November 4 is no exception: the ballot is thick and dense, with lots of contests that can seem pretty obscure or just plain irrelevant, particularly for young voters. Continue reading

An Illustrated History of the Voting Rights Act

Includes illustrated infographics

VRAThe upcoming midterms marks the first major nationwide election since the Supreme Court struck down a key piece of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. The 2013 decision had an immediate impact, giving a handful of primarily southern states the green light to change their voting rules without first getting approval from the federal government. Continue reading