Voting and Politics

Demystifying our confusing voting and electoral processes. Includes illustrated series on the Voting Rights Act

RECENT POSTS

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

A Modern History of Voting Rights (in Three Illustrated Acts)

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

Map: America’s Confusing Patchwork of Voting Laws

Includes maps and video

votingThink you know your state’s voting rules? Better check again before heading to the polls next month.

Depending on where you live, those rules might have changed since the last time you voted. And those changes could affect outcomes in a number of tightly contested congressional races that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Continue reading

Demystifying California’s Top-Two Primary System

acgov.org

How it works

The top-two system made its debut in 2012  after voters approved Proposition 14 two years earlier. But this is the first primary where the new rules take effect in statewide races.

The basic gist: you can vote for any candidate in a particular race regardless of political party affiliation. That’s because every candidate from every party is lumped together in one big political crock pot (yes, that’s crock, not crack). And for most state races, any voter can choose a candidate from any party. Continue reading

“Schoolhouse Rock” Revised: What it Really Takes to Pass A Bill in Congress

Includes videos and interactive chart

Remember that catchy “I’m Just a Bill” cartoon from the 1970s? For many of us, it was our first civics lesson (and introduction to bell-bottoms). But given the intense gridlock in today’s Congress — which will go down as one of the least productive in history — it’s fair to say that the lovable cartoon may have missed a few steps in explaining how laws are made. To fill in the gaps, the news explainer site Vox created a revised version for this era of congressional dysfunction. It’s modeled on the steps leading to the passage of the DATA Act, a recent bill that actually survived the gauntlet of Capital Hill.

[Article continues below videos]

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Explaining the Latest Supreme Court Ruling on Campaign Spending Limits

SCOTUS DecisionThe Supreme Court on Wednesday removed a 40-year-old cap on the total amount of cash  individuals can contribute to political candidates and party committees. The latest in a string of rulings chipping away at longstanding campaign finance limits, the court’s 5-to-4 decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission is expected to let new flood of money pour into America’s already cash-saturated political process.

What the decision actually does

It removes the cap on the combined amount of cash that any one person can directly give to candidates running for federal office, or to political party committees. Continue reading

Map: States Where Felons Can’t Vote

Includes interactive map

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 eleven states that deny voting rights to those who have completed their full sentences (including parole), restrictions vary significantly, and often depend on the severity of the crime. A good overview of each state’s specific restrictions can be found at ProCon.org.

[See article below map]

Continue reading

Visualization: How America Responded to the State of the Union via Tweet

Includes interactive visualization

screenshot

As President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address last night, the Twittersphere was, unsurprisingly, abuzz with commentary and reactions. To show which parts of the speech struck a chord — or a nerve —  Twitter data viz whiz Nicolas Belmonte created the following interactive visualization. It attempts to gauge the resonance of the various topics Obama addressed by linking every paragraph in the speech to the thousands of Tweets submitted directly in response, and geographically tracing where those Tweets originated. Continue reading