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Public Integrity’s investigation into inequality in access to voting and political representation ahead of the 2022 elections has won a National Headliner Award.

Who Counts?” won first place for best beat coverage in the annual awards program, sponsored by the Press Club of Atlantic City.

Judges called the project “a detailed report on voting issues, from the history of noncitizens voting to gerrymandering,” and said it was “an important contribution to understanding how a democracy works, and the challenges of equitable voting.”

The investigation found that 26 states — all controlled by Republicans — made access to voting and political representation less equal between the 2020 presidential election and 2022 midterms, targeting people of color and younger voters in particular. While almost as many blue states adopted changes seeking to make voting more equal, the investigation found continuing inequity in all 50 states. 

“Who Counts? details one of the most intense rollbacks of basic voting rights of the past 50 years,” said Public Integrity Editor-in-Chief Matt DeRienzo. “There’s no bigger story ahead of 2024 because every other issue facing the country hinges on the existence of a multiracial democracy.”

A team of about 20 reporters, editors and fact checkers wrote about the state of equity in access to voting in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Contributing reporters Jared Bennett, Karen Carillo, Gina Castro, Kimberly Cataudella, Alan Hovorka, Lindsay Kalter, Robby Korth, Aaron Mendelson, Lizzie Mulvey, Hayley Starshak, DeArbea Walker, Jordan Wilkie and Peter Winslow examined about a dozen factors affecting disparities in access — from flexibility in casting a ballot outside in-person hours on election day, to ID and voter registration requirements, felony disenfranchisement and redistricting.

Later stories in the project included timely reporting by Cataudella and Ileana Garnand: As interest in the midterms intensified, it was already too late for millions of Americans to participate because of new Republican restrictions on registering to vote. Voting was more costly because of new legislation. And millions of votes wouldn’t be counted because of minor errors due to opposition to a “ballot curing” process in many states.

Public Integrity also featured reporting and data analysis by Mendelson and Pratheek Rebala that married individual voter-level data with geolocation of drop boxes to show how false rhetoric about fraud associated with absentee ballot drop boxes led to restrictions in Florida and other states that often disproportionately targeted Black voters.

And reporting by Mendelson, Kristian Hernandez and DeRienzo turned a spotlight on disenfranchisement of millions of people typically left out of conversations about access to the political process, including noncitizens playing a vital role in local communities, huge portions of the Black population in many states disenfranchised due to felony convictions, and the “de facto” disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands as state and local governments fail to offer the chance to vote to people held temporarily in jail.

Who Counts? built upon the work of Public Integrity’s 2020 investigation, Barriers to the Ballot Box, which was a finalist for the Toner Prize for Excellence in National Political Reporting.

Public Integrity’s journalists have been recognized with numerous honors in recent months, including the Paul Tobenkin Award, a Peabody Award nomination, the Sigma Award recognizing the world’s best data journalism, two finalist honors for the Shaufler Prize for reporting about underserved people, the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing’s “Best in Business” awards, the Gracie Awards honoring media produced by and for women, and the Signal Awards recognizing the country’s best podcasts. 

Founded in 1989, the Center for Public Integrity is one of the oldest nonprofit news organizations in the country and is dedicated to investigating systems and circumstances that contribute to inequality in the United States.

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