Miles Parks

Ukraine was bound to come up during Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate at some point, but when it did, it quickly became clear that neither former Vice President Joe Biden nor his primary opponents wanted to focus on it.

With the debate's second question, Biden was given a chance to address the unfounded allegations lobbed by President Trump: that Biden used his federal power to corruptly favor a Ukrainian gas company that was paying his son, Hunter.

North Carolina state Sen. Rick Horner is pointing at a colorful computer screen.

A staffer points and clicks, points and clicks, slightly changing the dimensions of the red, yellow and cyan jigsaw puzzle at Horner's request.

It's a map of the voting districts of North Carolina. Horner, a Republican, is shaping democracy — and generally having a ball.

A group of guys are staring into a laptop, exchanging excited giggles. Every couple minutes there's an "oooooh" that morphs into an expectant hush.

The Las Vegas scene seems more like a college dorm party than a deep dive into the democratic process.

Cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon are being tossed around. One is cracked open and spews foam all over a computer keyboard.

"That's a new vulnerability!" someone yells.

Updated at 1:40 p.m. ET

Security concerns have prompted the Democratic National Committee to recommend nixing a plan that would have allowed Iowans and Nevadans to remotely caucus for candidates next year.

Supporters have long argued that "virtual caucuses" would open up Iowa's first-in-the-nation presidential contest, which requires caucusers to physically attend sometimes hours-long events to declare their choice for president.

The warden of the federal prison in New York City where Jeffrey Epstein was found dead has been reassigned, the Department of Justice says. Two other staffers were placed on leave.

The administrative moves took place amid official investigations into Epstein's death and following harsh official criticism of the Bureau of Prisons.

New Jersey is a decisively Democratic state, but last year Democratic lawmakers there decided to try to cement their power even further.

Hillary Clinton won by 14 percentage points in 2016. Barack Obama won by 17 percentage points before that, and a Republican hasn't won a Senate race there since 1972.

Even so, the state Legislature introduced a plan that would overhaul the map-making process in a way that would guarantee Republicans became a "permanent minority."

Updated Aug. 15

Every year, thousands of Americans try their hand at breaking into politics by running for some kind of elected office.

It's a noble act, often aimed at trying to make a difference — on a school board, a city council or a zoning commission.

But it isn't easy, and many passionate, intelligent people don't know where to start.

NPR's politics team and Life Kit are putting together a how-to guide — in podcast form — on running for office.

Updated on June 7 at 4:30 p.m. ET

The way Thomas Hofeller talked about redistricting — the drawing of political boundaries and the sifting of voters into buckets — you could be forgiven if you assumed he was speaking about a loved one or a favorite holiday.

From 8 a.m. to noon on Election Day last November, voting in Johnson County, Ind., ground to a halt.

Lines at precincts across the county, just south of Indianapolis, swelled. Some voters waited hours to cast a ballot; some left furious that they were unable to do so.

"People weren't happy. People had to leave and go to work," said Cindy Rapp, the Democratic member on Johnson County's election board.

The county votes on electronic voting machines, which don't provide a paper trail — something cybersecurity experts vehemently warn against.

Updated at 4:12 p.m. ET

Special counsel Robert Mueller shut down his Russia investigation on Wednesday in an unusual appearance in which he restated his findings and made clear that he never considered it an option to charge President Trump.

"We are formally closing the special counsel's office," Mueller told reporters at the Justice Department on Wednesday morning.

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