About Us

Bolts is a digital magazine that covers the nuts and bolts of power and political change, from the local up. We report on the local elections and obscure institutions that shape public policy but are dangerously overlooked, and the grassroots movements that are targeting them.

We focus on two areas where local governments play a key role: criminal justice and voting rights.

When it comes to practices that balloon prisons or weaken democracy, decisions are often made by an opaque ecosystem of institutions and officials. Our journalism shines a spotlight on the levers of power that influence democracy and mass incarceration—think of your local judges, county clerks, or prosecutors—and the political battles around them. We will later add other issue hubs (stay tuned).

You can make a donation to support our work, sign up for our newsletter, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and of course read our latest content.

Our team and our boards

Founder and Editor in Chief

Daniel Nichanian

Managing Editor

Michael Barajas

Story Editor

Camille Squires

Staff Writer

Alex Burness, Piper French

Board of Directors

Easha Anand, Kevin Keenan, Daniel Nichanian

Advisory Board

Nikolas Bowie, Josie Duffy Rice, Cristian Farias, Akash Mehta, Rebecca Traister, George Zornick

Contact Us

We hope to hear from you if you have an idea for a story that would fit Bolts that you would like to write. To reach out with a pitch, contact us here.

To reach out with comments, tips, or and requests for corrections, contact us here. Note that we do not publish letters to the editors.

Postings for positions at Bolts will be posted on our Jobs page. We hope to hear from you!

Our Structure

Bolts is operated by The Political Report, Inc., a 501c(3) nonprofit corporation. We are also fiscally sponsored by Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), a 501c(3) organization.

Bolts is the new home of “What’s on the Ballot,” a platform that since 2018 has offered cheatsheets and databases to organize the chaos of U.S. democracy. “What’s on the Ballot” is now continuing to help readers follow elections small and big, local and national, by producing more cheatsheets and information. Bolts also incorporates past content published on “The Political Report,” a platform on the local politics of criminal justice that was hosted by The Appeal, between 2018 to 2021.

Our conflict of interest policy, as adopted by the board of directors, is available here.

Bolts has worked with Lawyers for Reporters, and Proskauer, for legal services. Catherine Vaughan advises us on management and development. The Bolts website is designed by Bistro Studios.

Bolts is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News and of LION Publishers, a professional journalism association of independent publishers.

Our Finances

Bolts is operated with funding obtained through philanthropic grants and individual donations. 

Bolts endorses and subscribes to the ethical guidelines recommended by organizations that monitor nonprofit journalism such as the Institute for Nonprofit News. 

We have a policy of disclosing all contributions of at least $5,000, a level chosen in accordance with INN’s recommendation. As of November 2022, all such donors are as follows.


Justice Catalyst

Benjamin Rahn and Katherine Paur

Vital Funds

The Just Trust

Yellow Chair Foundation

FWD Education Fund

Just Impact Advisors (initially via Open Philanthropy)

Erika and Peter Reinhardt

The Schuh-Nguyen Family Fund

Jon Zieger

We also espouse a policy of editorial independence. We maintain a firewall, which is communicated expressly to such donors, between financial contributions and editorial decisions as to what Bolts covers and how. When accepting contributions, Bolts is not endorsing the views of the contributors. Bolts editors make independent decisions on the assignment of stories, their content, and their editing; Bolts allows no right to review or influence our articles.

Contributions are sought and obtained for the purpose of supporting the general operations of this publication. In the future, if a grant or contribution were made for a purpose other than general operational support (for instance, coverage of a given geographic area or a broad topic), Bolts would maintain independent control over editorial content. It would ensure that the delineation remains broad, consult members of our advisory board, and disclose the matter to the public.

Our Corrections Policy

Bolts Magazine is committed to ensuring the accuracy and trustworthiness of its reporting. We will correct errors that we become aware of after publication to the best of our ability, and disclose corrections underneath published articles. Readers can reach out to flag an error or the need for a correction.