The Improvement Association

Publisher:
Serial, The New York Times

The Improvement Association

4.6/5

Critic Rating

For at least a decade, allegations of cheating have swirled around elections in rural Bladen County, N.C. Some people in town point fingers at a Black advocacy group, the Bladen County Improvement Association, accusing it of bullying voters, tampering with ballots and stealing votes outright. These accusations have never been substantiated, but they persist. Reporter Zoe Chace went to Bladen County to investigate what’s really going on. From the makers of Serial and The New York Times, a five-part series about allegations of election fraud — and the powerful forces that fuel them.


Critic Reviews

Score: 5

Samantha Vincenty • Oprah Daily Dec 23, 2021

"Host Zoe Chace brings a genuine curiosity to investigating the (sometimes vague, often racially tinged) accusations against the group. Her discoveries are an indictment of the partisan election problems plaguing many states in the U.S."

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Score: 4.5

Nicholas Quah • Vulture May 13, 2021

"[Update] I won’t beat around the bush here: As you would expect from a Serial Productions project, this show is a cut above most other things in the podcast world. Still, there’s something about The Improvement Association that renders it slightly inert, at least relative to Serial Productions’ previous release Nice White Parents and the core election-fraud hook, which is about as high-stakes as they come."

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Score: 4

Kevin Chang Barnum • PodcastReview.org May 5, 2021

"It’s a well-crafted series, but it’s not pointing fingers at anyone new. The Improvement Association is fine-tuned to appeal to the current political moment, a calibration that simultaneously helps and hinders the series. Chace, to her credit, reports the story with tireless determination, and has an uncanny ability both to get people to talk to her and to ask the right questions, even in the back of a furniture store. The podcast tells an important story and tells it effectively, but it too often shows us connections that don’t exist."

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Score: 4.9

Mara Davis • Paste Magazine Apr 27, 2021

"Chase’s writing and face-to-face conversations about what happened are eye-opening, compelling and sometimes heartbreaking. It gives some insight into why we’re seeing new election laws all over the country."

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Score: 4

Fiona Sturges • Financial Times Apr 19, 2021

"Non-American listeners will have to concentrate hard on the opening episode, which is dense with scene-setting and background information. The prologue alone comes in at nearly 10 minutes, which struck me as too long. Google is your friend here. Nonetheless, The Improvement Association is beautifully produced and reported, and comes with elegant yet unobtrusive sound design. …"

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Score: 4.5

Hannah J Davies • The Guardian Apr 16, 2021

"On first impressions, the latest podcast from the makers of Serial looks set to be a riveting, slow burn tale of US election fraud, in the same way that their recent hit Nice White Parents was a riveting, slow burn tale of continued segregation in the US schools system. "

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Score: 5

Nicholas Quah • Vulture Apr 15, 2021

"I’ve heard only the first of the show’s five episodes as of this writing, and it hits a bunch of my personal boxes: it’s deliciously wonky, it’s (unsurprisingly) well-written, it’s rich with a sense of place, it’s Zoe Chace doing a political story. But the thing that really jumps out is Chace’s rendering of this election-fraud story as a local story with tangible effects on how members of a small community — the kind of place, Chace tells us, where interactions are still largely done face-to-face — relate to one another. …"

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