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Same-Sex Marriage Laws by State

Includes interactive map

The data visualization wizards at the Los Angeles Times put together a great chronological map that illustrates the change in same-sex marriage rights by state since 2000. Click the image below to see the interactive version.

Gay-Marriage_timeline_LA Times

 

Background

In 1996 the U.S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), stating that “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.’’.

Under the federal law, states do not have any obligation to recognize same-sex marriages and the legal/financial rights that go along with it. However, individual states have the power to decide – either through legislation or voter initiative – to legalize same-sex marriages. And in recent years, a growing number of states have done just that. They include Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut,  Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire, as well as Washington D.C. In the 2012 election, voters in the state of Washington, Maryland and Maine also legalized marriage for same-sex couples, raising the total number of states to nine.

In California, same-sex marriage was briefly allowed until voters in 2008 passed Proposition 8, which struck down the law.  A federal court has since ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional. Same-sex marriages, however,  have yet to resume here, and the U.S. Supreme Court is now considering whether to hear the case.

Which Propositions Passed (and which counties voted for them)?

Includes interactive map

Let’s be honest: voting in California can be kind of overwhelming.

Along with having to decide on a president, a senator, state and local officials, and local ballot measures, California voters were also faced with no less than eleven statewide propositions this election. Of these, five passed.

The map below shows which counties supported what (counties in green voted Yes, those in red voted No). The voting patterns emphasize the fairly sharp political divide between more liberal counties in and around the Bay Area, Los Angeles and along the coast, and the far more conservative counties of the Central Valley.

Should Felons Have the Right to Vote?

Includes video

In California, felons serving time in prison or county jail are denied their right to vote. So too are ex-felons who have served their prison terms but are still on parole.That amounts to a fairly significant population – many thousands of California residents – who have temporarily lost their right to vote as a result of criminal convictions.

(Most inmates in county jail awaiting trial or serving time for a misdemeanor, or who are on probation, can still vote, according to the California Secretary of State’s voting guide for current and former inmates).

And this raises an important question: is voting a privilege that should be denied to people who commit crimes, or is it an inalienable right? Continue reading

The Battleground States: Where It All Goes Down

Includes maps and videos

Watch Map Center: What If the Battleground States Go Red? on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Because nearly every state in the nation has a winner-take-all presidential electoral system (except Nebraska and Maine), the outcome on election day in most states is fairly predictable. No Republican presidential candidate, for instance, has won California since 1988, and there’s no sign of that trend changing anytime soon. So it wouldn’t be the smartest move to put your money on Mitt Romney here.

Likewise, Texas hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976. So Barack Obama’s chances of winning over the Longhorn State this election? Pretty slim.

Of course, on the rare occasion there have been some monumental upsets. Take Indiana, which hadn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, but in 2008 picked Obama (albeit narrowly and ephemerally: the state is back to it’s solid red roots this year).

The majority of the presidential race is downright predictable.

So where’s the suspense? Where’s the action? Continue reading

Who Do We Lock Up? Four Key Characteristics of Cal’s Prison Population

Includes: interactive charts and maps

Who’s actually behind bars in California? Here are four key characteristics of California’s prison population:

Geography

The majority of inmates come from the southern part of the state. A whopping 50,000 – or 34 percent of all prisoners – come from Los Angeles County alone. But the highest incarceration rates are concentrated in poorer counties in the Central Valley and the Inland Empire. Leading the charge is Kings County in the San Joaquin Valley, where nearly 1 percent of the entire population is in state prison.

Click on the map below for info on the number of prisoners who come from each county in California, what percent of the prison population each county contributes, and what percent of each county’s total population is in prison.

Source: CDCR 2011 data

Race

The majority of prisoners are non-white. The largest group is Hispanic. But African Americans – who make up less than 7 percent of the general population and almost 30 percent of the prison population – are dramatically more likely to be imprisoned than any other group.

prison stats

Source: Public Policy Institute of California (using 2010 CDCR and 2010 Census data)

 

Age

The prison population is aging. Currently nearly 20 percent of inmates are age 50 and up, about quadruple the rate from 20 years ago. Meanwhile, the percent of prisoners under age 25 has steadily dropped.

Source: CDCR 2010 data

Gender

California’s prison population is overwhelmingly male. Men make up nearly 95 percent of all inmates. 30 of the system’s 33 facilities are for men.

Source: CDCR 2010 data

California’s 33 State Prisons (and the people inside them): An Interactive Map

As of August 15, 2012, California’s 33 prisons (30 for men, 3 for women) held about 120,000 inmates. That’s a lot of people behind bars, for sure, but it’s also a pretty significant drop from the year before, when there were roughly 27,000 more prisoners in the system. Today, most of the state’s prisons still remain overcrowded – about 150 percent above intended capacity – but progress has undoubtedly been made in thinning out the ranks. California no longer has the largest prison system in the country (things really are bigger in Texas). And it can almost entirely be attributed to the state’s public safety realignment program, which was put into effect last October with the goal of reducing the inmate population by about 33,000 within two years.

Mouse over the map below for information about each prison in California’s system, the current number of inmates, the change in population since realignment began, and each facility’s intended design capacity. Note that marker size is relative to the current inmate population in each prison. (It may be necessary to adjust the map zoom in to see specific details.)
Data source: California Department of Corrections

Realignment Explained

Last October California began a dramatic overhaul of its severely overcrowded prison system. Assembly Bill 109 – known as realignment – had the objective of shedding more than 30,000 inmates from in-state prisons and significantly cutting the prison budget. At the time the law took effect, there were more than 143,000 inmates behind bars in California’s 33 prisons. That’s almost twice the system’s design capacity. Meanwhile, California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation received about $10 billion a year from the state’s thinning general fund – over 11 percent of last year’s entire spending plan, more than was spent on the University of California and California State University systems combined. Continue reading

Shouldering the Burden: California’s New Jail Boom (interactive map)

California’s realignment process has resulted in many more new low-level offenders placed under county supervision rather than being put in the state prison system. Although the overall jail population has not changed significantly, many counties across the state have experienced a significant increase in their local sentenced inmate populations.

Click on each county below for average jail population rates of sentenced inmates between the third quarter of 2011 (before realignment began) and the first quarter of 2012.

jail legend

Data Source: California Board of State and Community Corrections

Eight Neighboring Nations with the World’s Largest Wealth Disparities (in GDP per Capita)

The world is not an equal place, and some places are a lot more unequal than others.

A national political border can have incredible significance; an abstract line separating neighboring peoples, economies, even life expectancies. Using GDP per capita as an indicator (sourcing the most recent Central Intelligence Agency data), the wealth divide between these four pairs of countries is vast … even though they geographically sit side by side.

(GDP defined)

Click on each country below to see the extent of the financial divide.
(I’ll leave it to you to figure out why this is.)

1.Kuwait and Iraq

Difference in GDP per capita: $38,300

2.United States and Mexico
Difference in GDP per capita: $34,200

3. Brunei and Malaysia
Difference in GDP per capita: $34,200 (tied with U.S.- Mexico)

4. North Korea and South Korea

Difference in GDP per capita: $30,000

GDP per Capita Around the World

Now that you can drop the concept of GDP per capita like the pros do, check out this interactive map that lists just about every country in the world (226) and their respective GDP per capita ranks in U.S. dollars. These figures are based on the most recent CIA data, with estimates derived from purchasing power parity (a complicated theory used to determine the relative value of currencies). It’s also worth noting that both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank compile their own GDP per capita data with slightly differing results.

The highest GDP per capita goes to Liechtenstein. Never heard of it? It’s really, really tiny, has a population of less than 40,000 and a GDP per capita of more than $141,000. In short,  Liechtensteinians are living large.

At the bottom of the list is the Democratic Republic of Congo in Sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 71 million people on an average of $400 a year.