Election 2012

Big issues, big money, big stakes: making sense of a messy process.
An ongoing series that includes explanatory articles, multimedia resources, and embedded audio/video.

The National Front
Electoral funkiness and the big issues at play this year

California’s Propositions
“Direct democracy,” Golden State style

Campaign Finance and Media
Money, ads and influence

Voter Participation
Who votes, who doesn’t and why
The Art of Redistricting
How our political destinies are mapped

ESL Election Resources
Bring the 2012 election into your multilingual classroom(w/ EDUCATOR GUIDES)

RECENT POSTS

Think You Know Your State’s Voting Rules?

Includes interactive map and video
class="wp-media-credit">Flickr:Miish

Flickr/Miish

When it comes to America’s eclectic patchwork of voting laws, there is certainly no lack of variety. Rules often vary dramatically from one state to another, and voting in some areas is a significantly harder feat than in others.

Take Virginia and West Virginia. While the latter doesn’t require any ID to vote, its neighbor to the east has one of the strictest ID laws in the nation. And while Virginia permanently strips certain types of violent ex-felons from voting, ex-felons in West Virgina convicted of the same exact crimes can regain the right to vote after completion of their parole.

To add to the confusion, a number of states have recently attempted to dramatically change their own rules on voter ID requirements, resulting in a constantly changing set of laws that can often leave voters feeling baffled and unprepared as elections approach (see examples at the bottom).

In February, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a challenge to a provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a landmark law that is widely considered among the most effective and successful pieces of U.S. civil rights legislation. At issue is a provision in the law called Section 5 that applies only to specific parts of the country with a history of discriminatory voting practices. It covers nine states, mainly in the South, plus regions within seven other states (including California). The law requires that all covered areas receive approval from the U.S. Justice Department before implementing any changes to voting laws.

The map below helps sort through the hodgepodge of individual state laws that determine who can vote. We’ve ranked and color-coded each state by the severity of its voting laws (taking voter ID, felon voting, early voting, and Section 5 into account). See the notes below the map for explanations on asterisked states that have recently changed laws, are waiting for federal approval to do so, or just happen to have their own unique rules.

State ID Legend Continue reading

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.

What Prop. 30 Means For Your Taxes

Includes explainer video

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Wait … Californians actually voted to tax increase their own taxes?

Get outta here!

Like most Americans, California residents don’t look too kindly on the notion of raising taxes. In fact, voters have rejected statewide tax measures the last seven times they’ve been on the ballot!

So in many ways, it’s pretty miraculous that on Tuesday 54 percent of California’s electorate approved Proposition 30, which temporarily increases sales tax for everyone by a quarter cent and raises income taxes for those making over $250,000. The measure, which Governor Jerry Brown crafted and threw himself behind, is expected to raise about $6 billion a year and prevent massive cuts to the state’s already beleaguered public education system.

Here’s how it’ll affect you:

Brown staked much of his political reputation on winning what became a bitter, hard-fought, and incredibly pricey fight; both sides waged a relentless ad war, collectively spending more than $120 million.

“I know a lot of people had some doubts and some questions: Can you really go to the people and ask them to vote for a tax?” Brown told supporters at the victory party late Tuesday night. “Well here we are. We have a vote of the people – I think the only place in America where a state actually said, let’s raise our taxes for our kids, our schools, for our California dream.”

And he was right. In a state where voters haven’t approved a tax hike in almost three decades, the very real threat of huge cuts to education appears to have actually resonated with voters.

The consensus seemed to be: “Yes, taxes suck, but some things are just too important to lose.”

The temporary nature of the tax, also, likely made the measure more palatable to voters.

Interestingly, it was younger voters who turned out in force on Tuesday in support of the measure. Voters ages 18-29 – who Brown and his campaign targeted – made up almost 30 percent of the electorate and were critical in pushing the measure through.

Why It Matters: Seven Major Issues At Stake For Youth In This Presidential Race

Includes explainer video

cbsnews.com

It’s been a long, hard slog, but the presidential race is finally coming to a close (back to good ole’ dish detergent and cereal commercials!). And for young people especially, the outcome could have a huge impact. There are some vast differences between what another four years of Democratic President Barack Obama will look like and a Republican Mitt Romney presidency.

So yes, it matters! Continue reading

Nine Big Differences Between Republicans and Democrats

And how their policies might impact you ... (includes PDF)

In the storm of political bickering, allegations and attack ads this election season, it’s easy to lose track of what the candidates and their political parties actually stand for. Many potential voters who’ve grown weary of the endless stream of negative campaigning may have the misconception that Barack Obama and the Democrats really aren’t all that different from Mitt Romney and the Republicans.

But take a quick look at the official 2012 platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties, and you’ll quickly some pretty extreme contrasts in philosophy on everything from taxes to abortion. In their national party platforms, the Democrats and Republicans have laid out a set of fundamentally different visions for America and the role its government should play in our lives. Continue reading

Thinking Twice About California’s Three Strikes Law

Includes original video and additional multimedia resources

On November 6, California voters will decide whether the state should revise it’s tough-on-crime three strikes law. If passed, Proposition 36 would reduce sentences for second and third strike offenders. Opponents of the measure warn that doing so will lead to an increase in violent crime. San Francisco State University film students Owen Wesson, Aaron Firestone, Marine Gautier, and Daniel Casillas took to the road this fall to collect a range of perspectives on a thorny, emotionally-charged issue that questions how best to handle crime prevention and fairly administer justice in California.

Continue reading

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

What Are Political Party Platforms?

Includew printable PDF

Flickr

By Donelle Blubaugh
Contributor

What are political party platforms and how much impact do they have in actual political decision-making?

During the Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer, you probably heard a lot about the party platforms”  These are actual documents that communicate the key principles of a political party and its core ideologies. Namely, what’s our government for and how should it serve the people?  Recreational reading, they are not. But understanding them can help voters steer through some of the election-season spin. The platforms actually provide some real, concrete insight into how party officials and candidates stand on critical issues – things like the economy, education and foreign affairs and social policies. Continue reading

Where the Super PACs Spend Their Dough

Includes animation

This animation by NPR does a good job showing where the super PACs and campaigns are funneling their cash to buy up airtime for political ads. Forgot California – in the months leading up to election day, it’s all about the battleground states!