Please pitch us!

Bolts is always seeking to work with freelancers to report on critical voting rights and criminal justice stories across the United States. We encourage pitches that fit our mission to grow coverage of the local and state politics, elections, policymaking, and organizing that shape these issues—think of county prosecutors and sheriffs, secretaries of state and local election administrators, state legislators, municipal officials, and the activism brewing around them. 

If you have a story pitch that would fit Bolts, we would love to hear from you.

Within our editorial focus on criminal justice and voting rights, we publish a range of formats: original reporting about the public officials with power over these systems, the contrasts that define their elections, and the policy debates that follow; news features about local developments or conflicts that underscore the stakes and opportunities for change; deep-dive research and explainers to help readers navigate the complicated patchwork of institutions that drive policy on criminal punishment and voting; investigations that expose the harms and injustices in criminal legal systems or threats to democracy; features that highlight people most impacted by current systems; profiles of activists or officials who are shaping these debates.

Stories we assign and publish typically are focused on a single geographic area and have room to probe it—activism to expand voter eligibility in one city; a bill to reform parole in a state; a DA election in one county; police shootings in one city—though we do also occasionally publish stories that pursue a multistate or nationwide trend. Our sweetest spot is a story about local politics that brings value to readers in that place, while also introducing it to a national audience.

We also seek to grow coverage of issues at the intersection of criminalization and voting access, such as felony disenfranchisement and the increased policing of elections, as well as the criminalization of abortion. 

We also highly encourage BIPOC journalists, incarcerated/previously incarcerated writers, writers from communities that are underrepresented in media and journalism, writers with deep knowledge of and experience covering a particular state or region, and writers with deep knowledge and experience covering a specific theme (such as election administration, or bail reform).

At this time, Bolts does not publish personal essays or op-ed articles.

How to pitch us: 

If you want to pitch a story that you want to write for Bolts, please send 2 to 3 paragraphs to 

Your email should describe your pitch, including a summary of the story, with a sense of its ‘nut graph’ that encapsulates the main takeaway of the piece, whether it’s time sensitive, what makes it original, important, or relevant, and a brief sense of your reporting plan and sources. Please also include a very brief introduction to who you are, with a few links to previous work that relates to your pitch. If you do not have previous published work that directly relates, please send us a different writing sample. 

What happens next?

If we’re interested in your pitch, we will agree on the details of the assignment, including a deadline and word count, and send you a freelance contract. 

Most of the stories we publish involve original reporting; the default rate we offer for a story with original reporting is $800. For stories that will be longer, take longer, or demand more work than our default assignment, an editor may offer a higher rate that reflects that larger scope.

We can work with you through the reporting and drafting process; after you submit a draft, your piece will go through an intensive editing process during which you will work with one of Bolts‘s editors.