Our American States | An NCSL Podcast

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The “Our American States” podcast—produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures—is where you can hear compelling conversations that tell the story of America’s state legislatures, the people in them, the politics that compel them, and the important work of democracy.

You can listen to the podcast on this page, you can subscribe through iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or Stitcher, or you can use the RSS icon at the right to copy a feed URL for your podcatcher. 

Elections

10

Once every 10 years, America’s political landscape changes. While most people are aware the U.S. census takes place in years that end in zero, a smaller percentage know the data collected helps determine how the nation’s political power is divided. In most states, legislatures are charged with redrawing congressional and state legislative maps following the release of the census data. This means political control of the legislature and the governor’s office will be critical when maps are redrawn in 2021. We invited two guests to explain this process and what legislatures are doing in preparation for the historic event.

  • Wendy Underhill is the director of the Elections and Redistricting Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures. NCSL is producing a series of meetings on redistricting, with the next one taking place Oct. 24-27 in Columbus, Ohio. Future redistricting meetings will be held in Las Vegas, Portland, Ore. and Washington, D.C.
  • For the staff perspective, we talk with Michelle L. Davis, a senior policy analyst on redistricting and election law at the Maryland Department of Legislative Services. She is the editor of the website Redistrictingonline and its Facebook page.

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22

Columnist George Will says it’s “the bible of American politics.” Started in 1972, the “Almanac of American Politics,” has been a valuable resource tool for people needing to have comprehensive knowledge of Congress, congressional districts and state governors. Published every two years, the 2020 version has just been released.

Our guest is Louis Jacobson, who is a senior correspondent for PolitFact and has written for publications such as Governing magazine, Roll Call, CongressNow and the National Journal. He is a senior author for the “2020 Almanac of American Politics.” He wrote the state overview chapters of the publication.

Jacobson offers listeners of “Our American States” a discount code to order the publication.

Visit the site to purchase the book and use the code LOUISANDFRIENDS

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Category: Elections
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27

Voters across the nation were busy in 2018, electing their government officials at the federal, state and local levels. In addition, they considered 155 ballot issues throughout the year. Seventy-one of those were referred to voters by state legislatures. In this episode of “Our American States,” we delve into some of the key decisions they made and how their actions may affect the 2019 sessions of state legislatures.

Our guest is Wendy Underhill, a program director for elections and redistricting at the National Conference of State Legislatures. She will guide us through decisions voters made on a wide variety of topics. She’ll explain “ballot harvesting” and “lock boxes,” and give us insight on health, transportation, criminal justice, voting rights, energy, ethics for public officials and revenue issues that were on the ballot.

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29

Following the 2018 midterm elections, more women will serve in state legislatures than ever before. Starting with the 2019 sessions, it appears that about 28 percent of the nation’s 7,383 state legislators will be women—a significant jump from a touch under 25 percent after the 2017 elections. In this episode, we dive into the historic numbers and discuss why they increased this year.

Our guest, Katie Ziegler, is the program manager for NCSL’s Women’s Legislative Network, the professional development organization that includes every female state legislator in the 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. The Women's Legislative Network’s mission: to promote the participation, empowerment and leadership of women legislators.

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27

More than 80 percent of all state legislative seats are up for election on Nov. 6, and, after the primaries, 21 percent of those seats have already turned over. That’s 2 to 3 percent higher than analysts normally see in a full election cycle, which means this could be one of the highest turnover rates in history.

And there’s more data that makes this an interesting election to watch. More women are running for office. The number of unopposed candidates has dropped dramatically. And Republicans, who control a solid majority of all state legislators and state legislative chambers, know that in a mid-term election the party of the president typically loses more than 400 seats. Democrats see an opportunity, but Republicans are working hard to hold off a blue wave.

Going over the data and explaining why the 2018 state legislative elections are critically important is our guest Tim Storey, director of State Services for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Storey, who has been analyzing elections for more than two decades, shares his expertise on what to look for and notes where the battleground states are in this election cycle.

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13

All voters will have the opportunity to elect federal, state and local government officials this November, but in more than 30 states more than 160 ballot issues on a wide variety of issues will also be on the ballot. NCSL maintains an election ballot issues database on all of the issues.

We asked Patrick Potyondy, a legislative policy specialist and ACLS-Mellon public fellow in NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting program, to walk us through some of the key measures. He discusses proposals on taxes, elections, redistricting, voting rights, energy, environment, transportation, criminal justice, marijuana and several other issues to give us a flavor of what voters will be looking at across the country.

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12

In 2020, the U.S. will conduct its next census. The result of that census will determine the amount of federal funds appropriated to states—nearly $700 billion federal aid is at stake. It also will determine the number of seats in Congress a state receives, as well as redistricting for state legislative and local seats. This episode will explain why an accurate count is critical to government, businesses, nonprofits and other organizations.

Preparations are underway and states are taking a lead role, with many already creating statewide complete count commissions to ensure accurate counts. Our guests will explain the process of collecting the data of more than 327 million people and what will happen between now and when official data are collected. They also say state legislators have a critical role to play in the process. Our three guests are:

  • Tim Olson, associate director for field operations, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Terri Ann Lowenthal, census consultant and former staff director of the House Census Oversight Committee.
  • Patrick Potyondy, a legislative policy specialist and ACLS-Mellon public fellow in NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting program.

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Category: Elections
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24

In this edition of "Our American States," we revisit the issue of cybsersecurity. When we first aired a podcast on the subject in February, the National Conference of State Legislatures Cybersecurity Task Force had just issued a "Cybersecurity Conversation Guide: Executive Branch, Legislative Branch and Higher Education." Since then, we have learned that more states were targeted by Russian influences during the 2016 elections.

So we decided to sit down with task force co-chair Jacqui Irwin, a memberof the California Assembly. She discusses what the task force is doing now, why we should be worried about more than elections when it comes to cybersecurity, why it's important for citizens to protect their online privacy, and why states need IT experts in their employ.

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09

The security of America's voting systems is under the microscope. Revelations about foreign hacking into state registration systems and allegations of voter fraud are a focal point of public policy discussions. In this edition of "Our American States," we examine those issues, equipment costs and concerns, military voting, mail-in ballots and other related issues.

Giving us his national perspective on these issues is elections expert Doug Chapin, director of the Program for Excellence in Election Administration at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and director of the university's Election Academy.

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