News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Zihao Chen/Getty Images

Alaska's new elections system challenged in state court

The sweeping overhaul of Alaska elections that won narrow approval last month is already being challenged in court.

A lawsuit filed in state court Tuesday by members of three political parties argues the new system must be stopped before it violates Alaskans' right to free political association, free speech, petition, due process and other rights guaranteed by the U.S. and state constitutions.

If the suit fails, starting in 2022 the traditional partisan primaries will be eliminated in favor of single contests open to all candidates for governor, state executive offices, the Legislature and Congress. The top four finishers, regardless of party, will advance to a general election reliant on ranked-choice voting.

Keep reading... Show less
Demetrius Freeman/Getty Images

Independents favored Joe Biden by 13 points nationally and in many battleground states he carried narrowly

Independents vital to Biden win, boon to a good-governance cause

Americans not aligned with either major party favored Joe Biden for president by 13 percentage points, exit polls show.

It's the biggest margin among independents in more than three decades. That's welcome evidence to those who perceive American democracy's problems as largely rooted in the major-party duopoly, and who say the system will work better if independents are awarded more political influence.

Keep reading... Show less
Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Kentucky is the only state with rules that make it virtually impossible to vote in person if an absentee ballot has been requested.

How to vote in person after seeking (or getting) a mail ballot in 49 states

More Americans will be casting their ballots by mail this fall than ever before. But in a year as chaotic and unusual as this, voters' confidence levels and best-laid plans can change quickly.

So what happens when people receive an absentee ballot but decide that heading to the polls is the more reliable or even convenient option than using the Postal Service or a drop box ? Or what if they apply to vote by mail but their envelope never shows up?

In every state except Kentucky, these are not insurmountable problems. But the degree of permissiveness varies considerably for voters who change their minds about their voting method of choice.

Source: The National Vote at Home Institute

Keep reading... Show less
Big Picture

10 pieces of art to inspire you this election

In a year that has featured tumultuous debates about the very essence of our country, artists of all sorts have responded with an explosion of creativity.

There's been a wave of work: dramatic murals protesting the killing of Black people by police, songs celebrating President Trump and also mocking him, videos urging people to vote. There have been elaborate embroidered messages of protest and contests to design "I voted" stickers.

The outpouring of inventiveness reflects the passions evoked by a presidential election, overlaid on a health crisis with debates about racial justice and fundamental democratic principles thrown in the mix. The slideshow here is but a tiny sampling.

Democracy Matters, a nonpartisan student political reform group, sees art as key to their work and to building community.

"Art can inspire, shock, heal and express emotion," the group's website says. "It engages the senses and stimulates the mind. When art is seen as a core element of encouraging social action, its power moves from a source aesthetic appreciation to a strong political tool."

Diane Mullin, curator at the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, has said that "art can teach us or demonstrate things about democracy."

"But art can also participate in democracy because artists are in very important ways contributors to discourse, and contributors to our society," she said said back when her museum was preparing for the 2008 Republican convention in Minneapolis and St. Paul. "So they can put forth proposals and propositions to make us think about things, to make us think about where we live, how we live."

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

This summer the nearby Minnesota Museum of American Art hosted an online forum of "Black Art in the Era of Protest." One key issue in the discussion was how to preserve the murals and other public displays that may end up being painted over or dismantled.

Here then is a gallery offering a glimpse of the artistic response to the election, racial injustice and the other existential questions about the state of democracy the nation is facing this year.

Bye, bye democracy

A mysterious group called Founders Sing, which has maintained its anonymity, this winter unveiled this melancholy ballad about the travails of the democratic system. More than 3.4 million have listened on YouTube — maybe because the song is set to the tune of Don McLean's "American Pie."

© Issue One. All rights reserved.