The Electoral College, explained

Why some Americans’ votes count more than others.

Vox | October 31, 2020

In the 2000 US presidential election, the Democratic candidate got half a million more votes than the Republican. The Democrat lost. Sixteen years later the same thing happened again. In the US, if you run for president, it does not actually matter how many people in the country vote for you. What matters instead is an arcane system for selecting America’s head of state called the Electoral College.

The Electoral College is the reason the US has something called “swing states,” and it’s the reason those places get to decide the future of the country. It’s the reason presidential candidates almost never campaign in the country’s biggest cities. And more recently, it’s also the reason that Republican candidates have been able to eke out victories in the presidential election without actually getting the most votes.

The Electoral College makes some Americans’ votes more powerful than others. In fact, that’s part of the reason we have it to begin with; in the country’s early years, the Electoral College helped give the votes of Southern Whites more weight than the votes of Northerners. The idea at its core, that certain votes simply matter more than others, is baked into the American tradition. In the 2020 election, it may decide the winner.

Why America’s police look like soldiers

Why are the police bringing military assault rifles to protests? And where did they get them?

Vox | June 25, 2020

Across the country, Americans protesting racial injustice and police brutality – the overwhelming majority of them peacefully – have been met by police forces that look more like an army. Officers have shown up to protests with riot gear, armored trucks, and military rifles. This is what America’s police now look like, and it’s the result of a decades-long buildup of military equipment among the country’s police departments. It began as a Reagan-era program to give police departments more resources to fight the War on Drugs, and has escalated ever since. Today, the idea of a militarized police force is baked into how American police see themselves.

How coronavirus spreads outdoors vs. indoors

Can a runner give you Covid-19?

Vox | May 28, 2020

If you want to stay totally safe from Covid-19, and eliminate the risk of either getting it or transmitting it, you have to stay home. But as the weather gets warmer, public places start to open up, and many places enter their fourth month of life under coronavirus, that’s becoming less and less realistic.

At the same time, we know that coronavirus can be transmitted through the air — and that raises some pretty big questions. Is it safe to go the beach? What about a park? Is a heavy-breathing runner going to infect you as they pass you? In short: How do you go outside safely?

Coronavirus is not the flu. It’s worse.

Send this to anyone who still thinks Covid-19 is basically the same as the flu.

Vox | April 1, 2020

Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has similar symptoms to the flu. They also spread in similar ways. So it’s natural to want to compare the two. But Covid-19 is very different, in ways that make it much more dangerous. And understanding how is key to understanding why we have to take it so seriously.

How soap kills the coronavirus

Plain old soap and water absolutely annihilate coronavirus.

Vox | March 18, 2020

You’ve been told a thousand times: wash your hands to stop the spread of COVID-19. But why does this work so well? It has to do with the way the soap molecules are able to absolutely demolish viruses, like the coronavirus.

The rise and fall of Rudy Giuliani, explained

How did America’s Mayor wind up at the center of Trump’s impeachment scandal?

Vox | December 28, 2019

Rudy Giuliani started his career as a superstar prosecutor and a crime-fighting mayor. Then he led New York City back from the attacks of September 11th, and it made him a beloved national figure. But today’s Giuliani is something different: He’s the guy willing to say anything to defend Donald Trump on TV, a central figure in the scandal that got the president impeached, and he’s under investigation by the US attorney’s office he once led. How did Rudy Giuliani get here?

What the US gets wrong about minimum wage

Raising the minimum wage doesn’t have to be so hard.

Vox | August 15, 2019

The American federal minimum wage hasn’t gone up in a decade. That’s the longest wait since the US first set a minimum wage in 1938. Today, Congress is debating whether they should raise it again. But the fact that Congress has to debate it at all is… kind of weird.

In the US, unlike in other developed countries, the minimum wage is a political issue. That means it gets raised irregularly and unpredictably. And that causes a bunch of problems for American workers and businesses.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

How Trump took over America’s courts

How Trump and McConnell are changing the country for a generation.

Vox | July 22, 2019

President Donald Trump is building his longest-lasting legacy in a place that’s often overlooked: the federal courts. It’s not just the Supreme Court that’s important — it hears less than 100 cases a year — his impact is being seen in places like the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This court has stopped many of Trump’s most controversial executive orders: the travel ban, emergency funding for a border wall. But this historically liberal court won’t look very liberal at the end of Trump’s first term.

NAFTA, explained with a toy car

NAFTA made your car cheaper, USMCA could change that.

Vox | October 30, 2018

When the North American Free Trade Agreement began in 1994, auto companies in the US, Canada and Mexico could trade parts and cars without paying tariffs. And they could source parts and labor from the cheapest places. That is a big reason why US car prices have only risen seven percent in 25 years.

But the proposed US Mexico Canada Agreement — or USMCA for short — could change that; President Trump’s new deal would increase the regulations that car manufacturers need to meet in order to sell tariff-free cars.

We built a Ford Mustang to explain.

Why America needs automatic voter registration

A simple fix to get more Americans to vote.

Vox | September 25, 2018

Americans are notoriously bad at voting, but it’s not because they’re unpatriotic or lazy. It’s because most states make it really difficult to even register to vote.

It’s time for the US to join other advanced democracies and implement automatic voter registration. It will make the voting system more accurate and more secure, plus it could give nearly 50 million eligible Americans a chance to decide how their country is run.