Posts Tagged ‘government’

Md. primary turnout fail reflects voter registration win

April 5, 2012

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Maryland voters fell as short as they did this week in part because the bar was set high.

Yes, there’s a hidden win in Tuesday’s turnout fail, when, according to early tallies, about 21 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in Maryland’s presidential primary — the lowest proportion in 32 years, my colleague Steve Kilar reports.

The upside to the low turnout quotient is the pace by which the denominator has grown. Buoyed by the historic 2008 presidential election cycle, when registered voters rose more than 10 percent over the previous cycle, over the last decade, voter rolls grew more than twice as fast as the population.

From February 2000 to February 2010, Maryland added more than 825,000 voters to its active rolls, to surpass 3.4 million, a growth rate of 32 percent, according to state Board of Elections data. Over the same period, the state added 480,274 adult residents, to surpass 4.4 million, a growth rate of 12.2 percent, according to U.S. Census data.

Since 2010, active registered voters have climbed further to more than 3.5 million.

While not a perfect comparison — not everyone 18 or older is eligible to vote — the striking difference suggests that, despite motor voter woes, voter registration efforts have been relatively successful.

Had they been less successful, Tuesday’s turnout likely wouldn’t have been quite as dismal. (I qualify because it depends on who stayed home more, recent registrants or established ones. Generally, voting patterns favor the former.)

So, even amid historically abysmal numbers, the glass is half full. Hmm, maybe I should run for office.

Creative Commons photo by Flickr user kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop)

Beauty in the blight: The accidental art of Baltimore 311 images

March 24, 2012

Beauty is everywhere, even among the blight. The following images were curated from Baltimore’s 311 app.

Dirty alley, Darley Park

Normal

Graffiti, Medfield

Buenavista

Damaged sidewalk, Highlandtown

Tree

Graffiti, Hampden

Chestnut

Dirty alley, Penn North

Clendenin

Parking complaint, Penn Station

Penn

Graffiti, Mount Vernon

Brick

Park cleaning request, Patterson Park

Courts

Open fire hydrant, Canton

Elliott

Parking complaint, Midtown

Preston

Journalism and Democracy: It’s Mutual

February 12, 2010

Perhaps journalism passed a valentine to democracy one year: “Psst, I like you, too.” That democracy digs journalism, the whole school knows that. That it’s mutual, not everyone guesses.

That’s right. Democracy needs journalism. And journalism needs democracy. Should have known. But, even growing up reading the newspaper, studying journalism in high school and college, working in the field for five years, and now returning to school to study journalism under the umbrella of interactive media, I didn’t. I didn’t, at least, give it much thought.

Democracy needs journalism because a representative government requires an informed electorate. Less obvious is why journalism needs democracy. Liberal media scholar Robert W. McChesney explains in “The Political Economy of Media.”

“Unless there is a citizenry that depends upon journalism, that takes it seriously, that is politically engaged,” McChesney writes, “journalism can lose its bearings and have far less incentive to do the hard work that generates the best possible work.”

The synergy between democracy and journalism, then, is at once troubling and reassuring given the transitional periods the two institutions currently find themselves in — in the United States, at least. It suggests deficiencies in either could bring the other down. But it also suggests that improvements in either could lift the other up.

It’s been a bit yo-yoey as of late. Two years ago things started to get real ugly for newspapers. At the same time, those papers were writing about a surge in political participation and the election of a president promising a new kind of politics. Now, the hard realities of governing have produced the same old partisan bickering. At the same time, new media upstarts that came of age during the presidential campaign are solidifying their voice.

Where things settle depends heavily on the actions of my generation. Idealistic and technologically savvy, the Millennials provide reason for optimism. They are civically engaged, as campaign ’08 showed, but not just in politics, but in community service as well.

On the journalism side, Millennials are well-suited to run the kind of values-driven news organizations The Reconstruction of American Journalism co-author Michael Schudson suggests will carry the industry forward.

In a speech Thursday, Schudson alluded to the journalism-needs-democracy argument, saying that journalism’s so-called golden age was a byproduct of Civil Rights, counterculture and post-Watergate activism. He offered that that era might have been a high watermark, but also that in today’s maturing information economy journalism is capable of many great things.

Sites like TalkingPointsMemo, ProPublica and VoiceofSanDiego, Schudson said, according to prepared remarks, “are springing up, and growing, and providing effective journalism, including original reporting, and so providing effective models for the future.”