It’s up! Here’s the story on my 417-mile, 24-day journey down the most endangered river in America. And the first of six quick explainer videos, produced by Brandon Ancil and Cory Livengood.

Check out this cool project by our friends at CNN Digital called Change the List. It spotlights the state of Hawaii, currently ranked number 50 when it comes to voter turnout. Through their reporting, interviews and related social media efforts, they’re hoping their experiment can lift Hawaii in November’s election. Click on the link to see what they’re doing to #changethelist.

You pick it, CNN will cover it

Pick your top five from this list and VOTE HERE! I’ll cover the winning five as part of CNN’s Change the List project. Voting closes next Monday.

Here are the topics to choose from: 

  1. No toilets: In one country, 90% don’t have basic sanitation.
  2. Rivers: Some U.S. rivers are dry or overrun with pollution. 
  3. Malaria: The country with the highest death rate. 
  4. Free speech: One nation ranks BELOW North Korea.
  5. Happiness: The saddest rich country could use cheering up.
  6. Internet: Some U.S. towns have little to no access.
  7. Rape: Some communities suffer disproportionately. 
  8. Dropouts: One state has a 60% graduation rate. 
  9. Extreme poverty: Children are hit hardest. 
  10. Moms: In one country, 1 in 100 births kills mom.
  11. Roads: They kill 1.3M/year. Smarter laws could help.
  12. Polio: Three countries stand in the way of eradication. 
  13. Women: Five countries have no women in the legislature. 
  14. Animals: Illegal trades empty ecosystems and line pockets.
  15. Leprosy: +200K cases are detected each year. Still.
  16. Conflict: The deadliest wars aren’t always in the news.
  17. Prison: Which U.S. state is most likely to lock you up?
  18. Land mines: They still kill thousands per year.
  19. Inequality: One U.S. state is the most unequal of all.
  20. Drugs: U.S. demand fuels cartel violence. 

After we have the winners, we’ll work together to push for change in places that need it most. Each story focuses on the extreme case – and the goal is to start a conversation that, over time, could bump these places off the bottom of the list. Thanks for your vote and support! –John


You convinced them to vote

Your thoughtful messages (find 47 of them here) convinced three of these nonvoters in Hawaii to vote on Tuesday, two of them for the first time. One of them, Michael Remen, said he decided to vote because of a single message, sent from a total stranger on the Internet. This was part of CNN’s Change the List. We’re trying to boost voter participation in Hawaii, the state with the lowest turnout. Many, many thanks to all who sent in messages.

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Journalism as democracy

Vote on the issues CNN columnist John D. Sutter will cover this year as part of his Change the List project. Pick five from this list of 20. He’ll start reporting on the five winners after voting closes Sunday night.

Don’t like the topics presented? Send a tweet to @jdsutter or an e-mail to ctl[at]cnn[dot]com and we’ll add it to the list of write-in candidates. CNN editors will choose the sixth Change the List topic, and that story could come from your ideas. Check out the spreadsheet with write-in topics here

Petition aims to combine Election Day with Veterans' Day (Sign it!)

After I wrote a recent article for CNN’s Change the List about why Election Day should be a federal holiday, someone created a petititon to that effet on I didn’t realize the White House’s website allowed for user-created petitions, but apparently it does, and a couple of you sent me this link on Twitter. It now has more than 7,500 signatures. Several similar petitions can be found on, but I’m highlighting the White House version because it seems to have the most support, at least at the moment. Take a look, and if you agree Election Day should be combined with Veterans Day, as The Atlantic first suggested, then take a second to sign it. I think it could go a long way toward making it logistically easier for people to vote, and symbolically reminding all of us of the sacrifices veterans made for that right.

Thanks! – John, CNN’s Change the List

Early voting numbers are up in Hawaii

More evidence Hawaii doesn’t have to finish last in voting: 

  • In 2008, 175,526 people voted early in Hawaii.
  • This year, about 180,000 people have done the same (so far).

These numbers are from Rex Quidilla in the state’s election office. They include early walk-in voting and absentee ballots that had been received as of Monday morning in Hawaii. "We just hope people come out to vote tomorrow,“ he said. CNN’s Change the List certainly hopes for the same. If all went as it did in 2008, Hawaii would need 11,466 more votes to hop off the bottom of the national list for voter turnout. You can do it, Hawaii.

A recent report from Educational Testing Services suggests that “With just over a week until the presidential election, there’s little hope of a high voter turnout among young people.” Low levels of civic engagement, limited knowledge of civics and government and indifference toward political affairs are to blame, according to the report. Voting rates are especially low among people with the lowest levels of education, with only 23 percent voting in the 2008 election. And only 4 percent of young, low-income high school dropouts voted in that election, says the report.
—  Alia Wong, writing in Civil Beat, a Hawaii news website. You can prove this study wrong. I met young people in Hawaii who are passionate about politics. Make your voices heard.
Hawaii ties for last in voting

(CNN) – Hawaii tied West Virginia for 49th place in voter turnout in the November election – and I’m pretty pumped about it. That may seem like a strange thing to be excited about, or even to know about, but hear me out on this: Since September, I’ve been writing about Hawaii’s lowest-of-the-low voter turnout rate for a new CNN project called Change the List. The goal, as the project name spells out in even-Ke$ha-can-understand terms (sorry, Ke$ha, I’m sure you’re smart, but that dollar sign …), was to bump Hawaii off the bottom of that list. And I wanted to do that with your help.

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That’s basically what happened to voters at one precinct in Hawaii after a series of unfortunate events. First, the polling place at Hokulani Elementary School on the island of Oahu ran out of ballots. A two-hour line formed as polling workers tried to shuffle hundreds of people through a single electronic voting machine.

Next, according to Mike Kratzke, who was working the election, officials delivered more ballots – but they were the wrong ones, featuring the wrong local races. “Everyone stop! The ballots are wrong!” Kratzke recalls yelling over an angry mob.

Finally: A sorta-solution. Kratzke said he passed out Japanese-language ballots to some of the English-speaking voters. By comparing the Japanese ballots with those that included the wrong candidates, he said, the people of Hawaii finally were able to vote.

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