Democracy Decoded
Season 3
Decoding State and Local Democracy
Street view of the Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Missouri.

This season focuses on democracy at the state and local levels and how we can better protect the right of all citizens to have their voices heard and the ability to hold their leaders accountable. Simone speaks with advocates and officials from a variety of states and municipalities to explore topics like expanding the freedom to vote, increasing opportunities for people to elect leaders of their choice, and implementing new systems to prevent corruption and ensure local governments adhere to the highest ethical standards. 

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1. All Politics Is Local

In this episode Simone talks with Jawharrah Bahar about her experience losing and then regaining her freedom  to vote, and how that inspired her work with the advocacy group Free Hearts. CLC’s senior vice president Paul Smith explains how and why state and local governments are stepping in directly to protect the right to cast a ballot. Simone also speaks with the Arizona State Director for the organization All Voting is Local, Alex Gulotta. Alex talks about the fight for state and local voting policies that protect the freedom to vote of Black, brown, Native American, and other historically disenfranchised communities.

2. Voting Begins Here

Host Simone Leeper speaks with expert guests that provide a comprehensive view of the challenges that ordinary citizens face in registering to vote, from convoluted registration processes to restrictive laws and administrative hurdles. With a sobering yet hopeful perspective on voter registration, this episode also explores the efforts being made across the U.S. to modernize this fundamental democratic process.

3. Your Community, Your Election

In this episode, host Simone Leeper takes listeners on a journey through the intricate process of running a local election, from its initial stages to the final vote tally. This comprehensive exploration highlights the checks and balances in place to facilitate voter participation and to guarantee that the final results will be accurate. In interviews with election administrators and experts, this episode underscores the commitment to ensuring free, fair and secure elections while promoting inclusivity and accessibility for all eligible voters.

4. The Questions on Your Ballot

When elected officials aren’t prioritizing the needs of their constituents, voters can make their voices heard on a state and local level through ballot initiatives.  In this episode of Democracy Decoded, host Simone Leeper breaks down the power of ballot initiatives, showcasing how everyday citizens can use this tool of direct democracy to bring about significant change. She speaks with advocates, politicians and experts who have had first-hand experience in crafting and enacting these ballot measures.

5. Contribution Limits (and Lack Thereof)

In this episode of Democracy Decoded, host Simone Leeper highlights how without campaign contribution limits, the vast financial resources of special interests can outweigh the priorities of everyday citizens. Experts and advocates discuss the intricacies of the electoral playing field, and how to best protect the voter’s right to elect candidates who truly represent their values.

6. Keeping an Eye on Ethics

In this enlightening episode of Democracy Decoded, host Simone Leeper explores the pivotal role that state and local ethics commissions play in safeguarding the integrity of the democratic process and dives into some of the scandals that have brought about their creation. This episode underscores how independent oversight is crucial in preventing corruption.

7. Better Choices, Better Elections

In the final episode of Season 3 of Democracy Decoded, host Simone Leeper explores the changing landscape of state and local elections, and some of the initiatives that can help ensure voters can choose candidates who truly represent their interests. This forward-looking episode offers a glimpse into innovative reforms that hold the promise of strengthening democracy.