+
True
Open Primaries

Gerrymandering. The primary voting system. The U.S. Electoral College.

These are just some of the problem areas with our system of choosing and electing those who represent us in each branch of government.

So ... what's wrong? Let's examine these three systems.

1. Gerrymandering is what happens when districts are divided up to favor one political party over another.

Also known as "redistricting," gerrymandering is when the incumbents who are in power after an election get to draw the boundary lines to make up districts of voters that benefit their own party. It's super hard to explain.


Frequently, it's used to concentrate ethnic, political, or religious blocks of people into defined districts. This then could mean that the districts around them become more dense with supporters of the incumbents or party in power.

Here's a very simple graphic to illustrate the concept — and how easy it is to make changes in districts that favor those who wish to stay in power:

Image by Steven Nass/Wikimedia Commons.

But it can also disenfranchise people in those districts. For example, let's say a district is 60% African-American, 20% Latino/Hispanic, and 20% Caucasian.

As you can see from the graphic, re-drawing the lines can mean voters lose out on the chance to have a representative and fair election in their "new" districts. They can be redrawn in ways that "spread out" the influence of those voters across other districts, so 60/40 split can be flipped to a 40/60 split, as you see in the graphic on the far right above.

Another pretty dramatic example, from Travis county in Austin, Texas:

Image by P. Henry/Wikimedia Commons.

In this case, the districts were redrawn to include counties that have historically much more conservative (Republican) bases, which watered down the votes from the city of Austin, known to be much more progressive/Democrat.

2. The primary system we use to choose candidates is also severely flawed.

What happens when a tiny fraction of possible voters get to choose who is actually running for office?

That's what inevitably happens in most state and federal elections across the country. If you're a registered Republican, you get to vote in the primaries for that party. Democrat? Same. But what if you're among the more than 40% of voters who are independent?

In many states, you have to actually register as a member of a party in order to vote in the primary.

If registering as a member of a party you don't necessarily agree with on many issues rubs you the wrong way, join the club. Millennials are increasingly opting out of our two-party system. It's something to consider when thinking about the pool of voters who choose our two dominant party candidates in presidential elections, for instance.

3. The Electoral College is something that is a holdover from when this country was still very young (1787, to be exact.)

Perhaps it's time to reconsider using it?

Popular vote by political party, 1788-2012. Image by ChrisnHouston/Wikimedia Commons.

Remember when the 2000 election was decided by the Electoral College and not by popular vote?

(You DO remember that, right? The Electoral College is what decided that election after the Florida recount. And recount. And recount.)

In that election, Al Gore received 540,000 more votes than George W. Bush in the popular vote. However, Bush won 271 electoral votes, and Gore, 266. Bush was, of course, declared the winner. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Electoral College basically means that representatives from each state are elected and pledge to cast their votes for president in a "winner take all" manner; that is, they pledge their votes for the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in that state.

The number of members of the Electoral College is dependent on the number of House and Senate reps in each state; currently, if you include the District of Columbia, there are 538 total electors. The winner of the presidential race has to end up with a majority of those votes from electors in each state in order to be declared winner.

Some say this basically means the popular vote isn't what it's supposed to be: one person, one vote.

Others say that by eliminating the Electoral College and going to straight popular vote, candidates will ignore smaller "swing" states and focus on population centers.

These are the problems, but are there any solutions? Maybe!

Some folks are working to change some of these problems. For example, some want to change our primary system so the top two vote-getters in the primary, regardless of party, are the two who are on the final ballot. It's called an "open primaries" system, and it's already being used in at least a few states and most municipal elections.

Here's a video from FairVote, and they're working toward that and a bunch more ways to change things for the better. (Plus, it's headed by none other than the bassist for Nirvana (!), Krist Novoselic.) Check it out:

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Pop Culture

John Cena sets new world record with 650 wishes granted with the Make-A-Wish Foundation

He’s become the foundation’s most requested celebrity—and he never turns anyone down.

"I'll drop everything."

The multitalented, mega famous John Cena might hold many titles, but this might be the coolest one yet—and it has nothing to do with wrestling.

The actor and WWE performer just broke the Guinness World Records for most wishes granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As of July 19, Guinness World Records reports, Cena has granted a whopping 650 wishes. The highest amount any other celebrity granted was 200.

The 16-time world champion first became a wish-granter back in 2002. Since then, he’s become the foundation’s most requested celebrity—and he never turns anyone down.

"I just drop everything. I don't care what I'm doing," he said in a WWE produced video after granting his 500th wish. “I can't say enough how cool it is to see the kids so happy, and their families so happy, I truly want to show them that it's their day.”
Keep ReadingShow less
via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

Keep ReadingShow less