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

Genetically Modified What? What’s the deal with GMOs (and should we know when were eating them)?

Embedded video and radio clips

This November, Californians will vote on Proposition 37, which proposes adding labels to food products containing ingredients hat have been genetically modified.

Genetically modified what?

Yeah – this is about as confusing as it gets, and there’s weird science behind the whole thing, which makes it even harder to understand for us normal folk. Continue reading

Three Awesome Infographics On America’s Abstract Electoral System

Elections aren’t supposed to be super complicated. But they are. And if you feel like you still need a diagram to figure out our electoral process, here are two good ones to get you started (created independently and shared on the site visual.ly). Click on the first one to see it full size.

What Is the Electoral College (and is it time to get rid of it)?

Everything you ever wanted to know about the electoral college but were afraid to ask (with videos and maps)

Here’s a little factoid that never fails to mightily confuse most voters. As Americans, we actually DO NOT directly elect our presidents and vice presidents. I repeat, the U.S. president is not chosen through a one-person, one-vote system!

Simply put: this is not direct democracy!

When we head to the polls on election day to choose a presidential candidate, we’re not actually really voting for that person. Instead, we’re throwing our support behind a group of “electors” who belong to a strange institution called the electoral college. And it’s that group that actually casts the direct votes to decide who the next president and vice president will be.

Don’t believe me? Check out Article II of the U.S. Constitution. Says it right there. Honest.

Weird, right?

Here’s how it works:

First off, what is the Electoral College (and do they have a good football team)?

It’s more of an institution than a place. No dorms.  No frat boys. No teams. No crazy parties. Basically, none of the fun stuff.

Here’s what it is: During the presidential election every four years, the various political parties in each state (for instance: California’s Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, etc.) choose a group of “electors,” generally party activists who have pledged their electoral votes to the presidential candidate of that party should he/she win the popular vote in that state. Pretty much anyone who’s registered to vote is eligible to be an elector, with the exception of members of Congress and federal government employees). Continue reading

Six Great Sites for Teaching the Business of Elections

Includes lots of multimedia resource links

What’s the electoral college, who are delegates, and why in the heck do we vote on Tuesday?

National elections, especially presidential ones, offer great teaching moments. But explaining the basic mechanics of America’s ever confusing electoral system can be daunting, especially for students who lack a basic understanding of the process.

Fortunately, there are a ton of great free digital resources out there to help your students demystify the process, using pretty engaging and creative formats. Of course, finding them entails the equally daunting task of spending hours online in search of the best unbiased content out there.

So, with that in mind, rather than adding to the cyber-pile, I’ve compiled a list of six excellent sites that do a good job in driving home basic election concepts, and, hopefully, encouraging your students to think critically about the process (rather than just learning about it as a given). This is by no means a comprehensive list (a good longer list can be found at the National Writing Project’s site), so if you have additional suggestions, please share in the comment box below. Continue reading

Should the Voting Age Be Lowered?

Flickr/Liz the Librarian

American youth under 18 years old live under the same laws as adults. They pay sales taxes (every time they buy something). And some can even work jobs and get drivers licenses.

But … they can’t vote.

And that’s just not fair, say a growing number of student rights groups across the country that are lobbying to have the voting age lowered to at least 16. Continue reading

Who Votes in California? (Hint: it’s not the majority)

Includes interactive map of voting rates and party affiliation throughout California
Click each county on the map below for stats on California’s eligible and registered voters, as well as a breakdown of political party affiliation (but keep in mind there’s a big difference between registered and “likely” voters). The darker the shade, the higher the percentage of registered voters.

(Source: California Secretary of State, May 2012 data)

President Lyndon B. Johnson, who signed the Voting Rights Act into law in 1965, called voting “the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.”

But in California – where nearly 24 million adults are eligible to vote – the number of people who actually take advantage of this right is surprisingly small.

Consider these California voting stats (approximated):

                  • 24 million: People who are eligible to vote
                  • 17 million: People registered to vote (about 72% of those who are eligible)
                  • 6 million: “Likely voters” (those who regularly vote)
                  • 5.3 million: The number of votes cast in the June 2012 primary election

Public Policy Institute of California survey also found that California’s “likely voters” are not  representative of the state’s racial and economic diversity. About 65 percent of them are white (even though whites make up only 44 percent of the state’s adult population) and only 17 percent Latino (who make up about one-third of the state’s population). Likely voters are also generally older, more educated, more affluent, and far more likely to own a home than the average Californian. And more than 80 percent were born in the U.S.

For more on how to register to vote and who is eligible, go here.

Why Do So Many Californians Choose NOT to Vote?

Guest post by Jennifer A. Waggoner
President, League of Women Voters of California Education Fund

kristin_a/Flickr

Voting is essential to the democratic process; it allows citizens to participate in shaping the role and scope of government. And it remains one of the most powerful and interactive forms of civic engagement.

In most Democratic nations throughout the world, universal suffrage is a right that’s been fought hard for. And in some democracies, voting among the adult population is actually mandatory.

Yet in America, it’s a right that’s grown strikingly underutilized. Continue reading

Who Smokes? The Stats on Lighting Up

Includes: article; infographic; map; poll

credit: lanier67/Flickr

About one in five adults in America smokes. That’s a significant drop from even a decade ago.

In California, which has one of the lowest rates in the country, it’s down to roughly one in eight.

But disparities in smoking rates across economic, racial, educational, and gender lines remain wide. The graphic below – from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - is based on 2010 U.S. smoking data among adults: Continue reading