‘An aggressive wave’ of voting laws nationwide, in charts

Country/area: United States

Organisation: Capital News Service – University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 14/09/2021

Credit: Aadit Tambe


Aadit Tambe is a second-year master’s student in data journalism and a fellow at the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland. He works at the intersection of data journalism and front-end design, and his goal is to write code and create graphics that explain the news. He has spent a semester working as a data and graphics reporter for Capital News Service, and has interned with the data and graphics team at NBC News.

Project description:

When state legislatures across the U.S. were passing voting laws, I used data collected by the Brennan Center for Justice to create interactive choropleth maps and charts to show which states in the country have passed restrictive and expansive laws, and explain how restricting ballot access disproportionately impacts people of color.

Impact reached:

The impact of the project was that it highlighted the restrictions on citizens’ right to vote by mainly Republican-controlled state legislatures. The move to restrict ballot access — which voting rights advocates experts argued was motivated by false allegations perpetuated by former President Trump about voter fraud in the 2020 election — disproportionately impacted people of color. Ensuring that every American can vote is an important issue — and one that has the ability to control the election outcome. For instance, Democrats swung Arizona and Georgia by less than 13,000 votes in the 2020 presidential election. 

Techniques/technologies used:

I collected data from the Brennan Center for Justice, which tracks bills and laws that seek to expand and restrict ballot access. I built the choropleth maps using Leaflet, an open-source JavaScript library used to create web mapping applications, in addition to vanilla JavaScript. The bar charts were built with Datawrapper, an online data visualization tool.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part of the project was to delve into why states across the country were passing these laws, and why they were passing them at the time, in what voting rights advocates called an “aggressive wave of voting laws.” The answer — which my reporting showed — was that this “wave” was motivated by false allegations perpetuated by former President Trump about voter fraud in the 2020 election. These restrictive laws disproportionately impact Black and Latino people, who overwhelmingly used mail-in voting and drop boxes.

What can others learn from this project?

Other journalists can learn from this project that there is not always a “both sides” argument, especially for topics that concern the health of our democracy. While some states passed expansive laws in 2021, this project highlighted Brennan Center research that showed states where voting is relatively more accessible were enacting laws to further strengthen voting access. This is deepening a national divide such that people’s right to vote is increasingly depending on where they live.

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