October 2008

Notes from underground (Hallowe’en pre-election version)

Last year on Hallowe’en , right before my last day at Microsoft, I wrote

Hallowe’en’s always been one of our favorite holidays, and of course our hood is one of the best places to celebrate it.  We’re both in a fairly low-key mood tonight, so rather than trick-or-treating, we’ll have a nice relaxing dinner, perhaps a glass of champagne and a bottle of wine (Chateauneuf de Pape probably suits our mood better than Adastra) … and no doubt a scrumptious dessert.

This year, after a summer of fighting for civil liberties and a new rebirth of freedom, it’s the homestretch — and I’m right in the middle of it, with Voter Suppression Wiki and Twitter Vote Report.  Jeff Santos had me on 1510 the Zone (a Boston sports radio station doing a week-long special election series) to talk about voter suppression today, and introduced me as a patriot — and not in the corrupted neocon sense of the word either.  (I mentioned 866-OUR-VOTE and 888-YE-Y-VOTA and veyvota.org at least a half dozen times, and AALDEF as well.)  Fox News did a fair and balanced piece on TVR today; Voter Suppression Wiki will be able to get the word to CNN on election day if we need to, and Brad Friedman’s will be checking in with us.  I feel really lucky to be working with such incredible people and organizations — the Voter Suppression Wiki and everybody else at the intersection of the grassroots election protection and citizen journalism movements…. and I wonder if the rest of the world looks at the 8-hour-long lines in Georgia as a parallel to the first post-apartheid election in South Africa?

Who knows what Tuesday will bring.  Right now, it’s infintite possibilities … and the sense that a change is coming.

And after dinner once again at Ma Tante Sumi (Chateauneuf du Pape again), Geomagnetic.tv’s Phantasmagoria 8 is tonight — Hallowe’en and psytrance in San Francisco, hanging out with the woman I love most of all on a special night.

What a difference a year makes.

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Protecting the election by “leveraging” office printers

cross-posted on Pam’s House Blend, OpenLeft, and MyDD and Oxdown Gazette, with various differences due to HTML incompatibilities but some cool polls to make up for it.

voter suppression wiki logoExecutive Summary:

  1. Print out election protection documents on Friday and Saturday, at work (unless you’d get fired) and at home (if you have a fast printer): My Vote, My Right state-by-state voter bill of rights fliersElection Protection and Ya es hora more detailed state-by-state legal information, and/or some of the other information linked to in this post.  Don’t be greedy and hog the printer.  Let your colleagues protect their votes too.
  2. Give them away and discuss with friends, family, fellow canvassers and phonebankers, and at places of worship over the weekend …
  3. Print out some more on Monday
  4. Take them to the polls

Details:

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Media release: Voter Suppression Wiki workshop highlights last-minute opportunities for reducing voter suppression

Cyberspace — A diverse group of bloggers, community organizers, media professionals, technologists, and voting rights activists have issued a report with several last-minute recommendations to reduce voter suppression in the upcoming US Election.  Some of the most significant opportunities involve increasing awareness of resources like the non-partisan Election Protection hotlines at 1-866-OUR-VOTE/1-888-VE-Y-VOTA, engaging the tens of thousands of participants in citizen journalism projects observing the election, and ensuring that voters and activists prepare for a chaotic environment on election day.

“Rather than simply making people feel frustrated and disheartened about the challenge, the Voter Suppression Wiki has allowed average citizens to participate in the protection of their most fundamental democratic right, that of voting,” said Baratunde Thurston, co-founder of the Jack & Jill Politics blog and initial creator of the wiki. “WIth this workshop, by collaborating across geographic, professional and demographic lines, we have distilled a handful of recommendations that can have a real impact on the voting process.”

A central theme in the recommendations is the need to engage many more people — not just activists — in election protection activities. Tracy Viselli of Reno and Its Discontentscomments, “Voters in battleground states are particularly hungry for information about how to protect their votes because they are anticipating problems. The good news is that voters seem to have gotten the message about how important early voting is. Unfortunately, though, many voters still don’t know what they can do if they’re faced with a problem voting at the polls.”

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Media call for workshop on “Last-minute strategies to reduce voter suppression” — Wednesday, 11 AM Eastern/8 AM Pacific

Last-minute strategies to reduce voter suppression

Audio available here

The Voter Suppression Wiki’s Workshop on Last-minute strategies to reduce voter suppression identified several major opportunities to protect voting rights during the week of the election. While election officials, campaigns, and non-partisan organizations have all made major effort to inform voters, there is still a significant lack of awareness of key resources such as state and national hotline numbers and online sites that allow people to check their polling location. Blogs and other online media could play a big role by providing election protection information on their front pages between now and the election; real-world community hubs such as libraries, coffeeshops and bars, and community technology centers also can make this information much more prominent. More effective coordination between election protection organizations, student groups, and community activists can help spread the word more quickly in response to last-minute election alerts such as polling location changes, undelivered ballots, and extensions of poll closing times.
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Update on the Workshop on Last-minute strategies for reducing voter suppression

Update: w00t, w00t, Voter Suppression Wiki is mentioned in Noam Cohen’s Casting a Ballot, and a Wary Eye in the New York Times — and I’m quoted (“The interesting challenge — the story in progress — is how do we coordinate our efforts”)!   Mom will be proud 🙂

voter suppression wiki logoWe’re roughly at the midpoint of the Voter Suppression Wiki’s Workshop on Last-minute strategies for reducing voter suppression.  After brainstorming and identifying opportunities over the weekend, we’re going to be starting to draft the report today.  Tomorrow, we’ll begin work on the press release as well, and issue both the report and press release Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.

We made a huge amount of progress on our Saturday conference call, with some common themes jumping out — in particular, opportunities for community organizations, media, and bloggers to supplement all the work going on.  A good example: Linda talked about how when she discovered she had been removed from the rolls, she found a link on MSNBC that directed her to the 1-866-OUR-VOTE Election Protection hotline who helped her get in touch with the right people.  If information like this was featured prominently on the front pages of mainstream media web sites, it could help a lot of voters …

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Radio, radio. You’re gonna hear me on your radio. Tonight!

On Saturday, Jon hosted a major organizing conference call that became a strategy session for countering voter suppression nationwide. And, so, in a bit of marvelously self-reflexive irony, with Jon’s help, we’ll be using that same approach to make this hour of our show into a kind of national town meeting of the air, by modeling some of the local connections we’re making, while also connecting with others in Jon’s networks doing other important work in localities nationwide. Somewhat confused by all of this? Tune in on Sunday to see how it works in practice…. but, regardless, be sure to join in our conversation by calling us at 321-1670 (local) or 1-877-867-1670 (nationally).
— John Quinlan and Harry Waisbren, Forward Forum.net

live and streamed at WTDY 1670 in Madison
8-9 PM CDT

Questions via email: Forwardforum@aol.com
Phone-in during show: 1-877-867-1670
Live discussions to follow, on the Voter Suppression wiki and at MadProgress

These discussions are part of the Voter Suppression Wiki’s October 25-28 Workshop on Last-minute Strategies to Reduce Voter Suppression — see the announcement for more context.  We laid some ground work for this in a phone call yesterday, and there are a lot of interesting potential topics to cover — as well as important stuff happening in Wisconsin, as Ed Garvey’s Cheers for the voters! on Fighting Bob describes.

Please join us!

jon

PS: If there are topics you’d like us to cover, either in the on-air discussion or follow-on online, please mail them to forwardforum@aol.com … or leave them in comments here.

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Announcing a last-minute workshop on “Last-minute strategies for reducing voter suppression”

voter suppression wiki logoHeading into the last ten days before the election, it’s clear that is there are still huge opportunities to reduce voter suppression.  How to make best use of this time?  There are so many groups doing great stuff here that there are lots of opportunities for synergy; at the same time, there’s also a lot of redundant effort, and lack of awareness of key assets like the 1-866-OUR-VOTE/1-888-VE-Y-VOTA hotlines.  With so much going on in every state, use of social networks combined with community-based online/offline communication and media strategies could make a huge difference.

If we had a year to plan for this, and an infinite budget, it would be great to get everybody together at a conference so that people could make connections and find out what’s going on, with a goal of getting teams in place to make progress on various initiatives.  Oh well, maybe next time.  For now, we’ll do it in cyberspace.

Announcing …

The cyber-workshop on
Last-minute Strategies to Reduce Voter Suppression
October 25-28, 2008
http://www.votersuppression.net/page/Workshop

Opening phone call: October 25, 1 PM PDT

On-air discussion at Forward Forum: October 26 6-7PM PDT
(live chat to follow)

Facebook event here — invite your friends!

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Live from Madison this Sunday: social network activism and the Voter Suppression Wiki

voter suppression wiki logoI’ll be appearing on John Quinlan and Harry Waisbren’s show Forward Forum this Sunday from 8-9 CDT, on the air in Madison and streamed live at WTDY.  I met Harry working on Get FISA Right, and so we’ll be discussing social network activism in general, looking at some of the experiences I discuss in Reflections and Cognitive diversity and the US 2008 Election.  With the election right around the corner, though, we’ll probably be devoting the bulk of our time to election protection projects, including Twitter Vote Report and the Voter Suppression Wiki; and Harry will set this in the broader context of Beyond Iraq: A Time to Break Silence.

Madison is a hotbed of activism and this show has a solid following, so one thing we’re going to try to do is use this appearance to galvanize the cyber-brainstorming on the wiki, collecting good ideas and sparking connections during the show.  It’ll also be a great chance to highlight what every voter can do — see Baratunde Thurston’s 12 Ways To Safeguard Your Vote In Under 10 minutes — and give an update on our North Carolina action alert.

In short it should be entertaining, interesting, and  useful.  Not sure about the details, but there may well be an opportunity for callins or perhaps a live chat — if not during the show, then after.  Harry will be getting a blog post with more details up on MadProgress … so please, tune in!

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Help, please, with test data for the Twitter Vote Report (updated with logo)

Executive summary

Please take a minute to help by providing test data for an election monitoring project!

Details

Momentum on the Twitter Vote Report continues to build — Nancy Scola and Allison Fine’s excellent update from Monday already looks out of date, and as the steadily-growing partners list implies, we’re making excellent progress towards the ambitious goal of  providing national real-time feedback of election problems.  Most importantly, we’ve got a logo — designed by TechGrrl Deanna Zandt, and it’s gorgeous!

Also importantly, the planning for Friday’s Jam Session is coming along nicely, including on the software side: we’re getting user stories in place, as well as firming up the grammar for hashtags and the database design.  There’s enough in place that people are prototyping the first applications … and this morning, in the chat room, Dave said he was at the point where he could really use some test data for an iPhone app he’s working on.

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Voter Suppression Wiki: 40,000+ votes at risk in North Carolina, please help get the word out

voter suppression wiki logoExecutive summary

Details

After posts by me on Pam’s House Blend Sunday night and Baratunde Thurston on Jack and Jill Politics last night, we’re on day three of the Voter Suppression Wiki‘s first-ever action alert.  The issue of confusing ballot design where North Carolina “straight party” voters need to make sure to vote for a Presidential candidate as well has been getting noticeably more attention: a couple of excellent posts by Chris Kromm on Facing South [1, 2] go into more detail on the “1% undervote” estimate and the implications of 40,000 or more votes not counting this election, and the Obama Straight Flip video is helping get the word out to Democrats via YouTube.

Of course, many of the people most at risk for losing their vote don’t read political blogs or watch YouTube.  And individual experiences in early voting, for example in this thread on NCBlue, vary greatly: some sites have helpful poll workers and “greeters” to remind people, others doen’t, and there’s plenty of room confusion.  So we think there’s still plenty of opportunity to help in getting the word out.  Baratunde summed it up well:

I would add that you should post this blog item to the walls of your facebook friends who live in North Carolina asking them to spread the word. Email it to family and friends down there. Call them. We cannot let this new voter participation go to waste!

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“e-Deceptive Campaign Practices”

epic logo

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)’s Technology and Democracy 2.0 report on “e-Deceptive campaign practices” is getting released on Monday, along with a parallel report from Common Cause and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights covering the legal and policy issues.  Contributors include computer security legends like Peter Neumann (of Bell Labs, SRI and comp.risks fame) and Bruce Schneier, Erik Nilsson of Computing Professionals for Social Responsibility, Poorvi Vora of George Washington University, Juan Gilbert of the Human Centered Computing Lab of Auburn University, Lillie Coney of EPIC … and me.  Pretty illustrious company.  Mom will be proud 🙂

“Deceptive campaign practices” has a very specific meaning in election protection work.  From EPIC’s announcement:

Deceptive campaigns are attempts to misdirect targeted voters regarding the voting process for public elections. Election activity that would be considered deceptive could include false statements about polling times, date of the election, voter identification rules, or the eligibility requirements for voters who wish to cast a ballot. Historically, disinformation and misinformation efforts intended to suppress voter participation have been systemic attempts to reduce voter participation among low-income, minority, young, disabled, and elderly voters. In 2008, millions of new voters are engaging the political process through Internet communication, which presents an opportunity to review the technology and the incident of e-deceptive campaign practices.

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Action alert: help get the word out about confusing North Carolina ballots

voter suppression wiki logoIn a classic example of confusing ballot design, a “straight party” vote in North Carolina does not include the presidential contest.  If you want to vote for a president, you need to make an additional mark in the presidential contest even if you’ve chosen a straight party vote.  (See detailed instructions in the first comment.)

This policy has been in place for over 40 years (added by Dixiecrats in 1967), and historically has resulted in at least a 1% “undervote” — people not choosing a presidential candidate.  With huge numbers of new voters this year, there’s a lot of concerns that it could be even higher.  While there are signs up in polling places, and many (most?) poll workers give instructions as they give the ballots out, there are already many reports of people mis-voting.

This is exactly the kind of situation where we hope the Voter Suppression Wiki can add a lot of value, supplementing the other educational efforts.  So let’s give it a try, and help get the word out!

I started by created an incident page, linking out to various reports of this, including an article in the Charlotte Observer, the snopes.com page, the alert from Black Box Voting.com, and a Daily Kos diary … and a brainstorming thread for ideas about getting the word out more broadly.  This is a decent initial reference for anybody wanting to understand or write about the story — or to double-check its validity.

Straight party warning from the NC ballot Continue Reading »

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