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‘Effective Democracy’ series will look at ways to strengthen Minnesota system

Our first in-depth report looks at the advantages and disadvantages of two popular voting variations — early-voting procedures and no-excuse absentee balloting.

“Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” —H. L. Mencken

“Democracy means that anyone can grow up to be president, and anyone who doesn’t grow up can be vice president.” — Johnny Carson

Everyone from cynic to comedian has taken a shot at some shortcoming in America’s political system but seldom suggested an improvement.

Today, though, we’re starting an occasional series of in-depth reports that will focus on a wide range of issues and ideas aimed at strengthening the political system and institutions in Minnesota and the region.

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The series, “Effective Democracy,” is meant to explore problems and potential solutions.

We’re starting with James Nord’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of two popular voting variations — early-voting procedures and no-excuse absentee balloting.

Over the next year, we’ll look at everything from election enhancements, such as electronic pollbooks and ranked-choice voting, to campaign laws and finance regulations. We’ll also look at the way judges are appointed and elected.

Our effort also involves teaming up with our neighbors to the east.

MinnPost and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism are sharing a $100,000 grant from The Joyce Foundation that in large part will support reporting on key democracy issues in our states.

This is MinnPost’s first grant from the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, which supports the development of policies that both improve the quality of life for people in the Great Lakes region and serve as models for the rest of the country.

The Joyce Foundation’s grantmaking supports projects for a strong, thriving democracy, research into Great Lakes protection and restoration, energy efficiency, teacher quality and early reading, workforce development, gun violence prevention, and diverse art for diverse audiences. The Foundation encourages innovative and collaborative approaches with a regional focus and the potential for a national reach.