Daniel Nichanian

I’m an editor, writer, and journalist who works on criminal justice, voting rights, local politics, and political theory in the U.S. and occasionally France.

I’m the founder and editor-in-chief of Bolts, a digital non-profit publication launching in February 2022. Bolts covers the nuts and bolts of power and political change, from the local up. It focuses on the overlooked elections and institutions that shape public policy on criminal justice and voting rights.

In 2018, I created What’s on the Ballot, a guide to local and state elections in the United States. It features cheat sheets and databases about hundreds of elections, with an eye to the stakes for the left. What’s on the Ballot migrated over to Bolts in 2022. From 2018 to 2021, I was the founding editor and editorial director of The Political Reporta media project hosted at The Appeal to cover the local politics of criminal justice and mass incarceration.

In creating The Political Report and What’s on the Ballot, my aim was to bring clarity to the chaotic institutional patchwork that governs the country, and do justice to the real-world stakes and value conflicts that are constantly shaping it. Now this is a central motivation behind Bolts.

My writing, reporting, and research have appeared in Bolts, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Appeal, FiveThirtyEight, Democracy, Philosophy & RhetoricSyndicate Theology, Daily Kos Elections, The New York Daily News, The Daily Beast, Politico Mag, New York Magazine, Vox, and more. I have discussed U.S. politics in media appearances. In 2016, I co-created a podcast series (“Floor Flight”) on the presidential primaries in the spring of 2016.

I completed a PhD in political theory in 2016 at the University of Chicago’s Department of Political Science, where I worked on democratic theory and contemporary political theory. My dissertation, Seizing a Seat at the Table: Participatory Politics in the Face of Disqualification, examined how people work to participate in the business of government when they are not recognized as having the requisite qualifications to do so. It reconstructed the misunderstood logic of sociopolitical movements—like those of 1870s American suffragists or 1980s AIDS activists—that persist in contributing their views to domains marked by technical expertise, such as constitutional interpretation and scientific decision-making. From 2016 to 2018, I was a postdoctoral fellow in the social sciences at the University of Chicago.

You can follow me on Twitter, @Taniel, and on Facebook.