This paper presents a new approach for studying temporal sequences across ordinal variables. It involves three complementary approaches (frequency tables, transitional graphs, and dependency tables), as well as an established adaptation based on Bayesian dynamical systems, inferring a general system of change. The frequency tables count pairs of values in two variables and transitional graphs depict changes, showing which variable tends to attain high values first. The dependency tables investigate which values of one variable are prerequisites for values in another, as a more direct test of causal hypotheses. We illustrate the proposed approaches by analyzing the V-Dem dataset, and show that changes in electoral democracy are preceded by changes in freedom of expression and access to alternative information.