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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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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.

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Friday on Meet the Bloggers: James Rucker, Brad Friedman, and me

When it comes to election protection and voter suppression, there’s perhaps no one more knowledgeable than Color of Change’s James Rucker.  That’s why Rucker will be our special guest on Meet the Bloggers this Friday at 1pm Et/10am PT, as we discuss these critical issues.

Joining Rucker will be Jon Pincus (Liminal States) and Brad Friedman (The Brad Blog).  Both have written extensively about this topic, and they will chat with show host Cenk Uygur about early reports of voter suppression and fraud, as well as campaigns to combat this problem.

Meet the Bloggers

Brad focuses on the political context of voter suppression, in 2008 and over the last eight years.  I delve into a couple of incidents (the deceptive Philadelphia flyers, the West Virginia Secretary of State’s ad with misleading information for student voters), and spend a lot of time encouraging people to take action.

voter suppression wiki logo

Speaking of which, from our “what you can do” action plan page, here’s three things that everybody can do today:

  1. check your registration and know your rights. Voters Unite has a state-by-state list of how to check that you’re registered, or use Vote For Change’s online form. Election Protection’s Elections 101 page is a good place to go to start learning more about your rights.
  2. spread the word. Make sure our friends and family have double-checked their registration and know where they’re voting.  If you’re a blogger or journalist, write about voter suppression and the grassroots election protection movement — and let your readers know what they can do about it.
  3. get involved. Introduce yourself and help out with the Voter Suppression Wiki — or join in one of the many other great projects working to bring “one person one vote” closer to reality

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Voter Suppression Wiki: Introductions, Help Wanted, and Strategy

Cross-posted on Oxdown Gazette and Pam’s House Blend

voter suppression wiki logoThe Voter Suppression Wiki is a non-partisan hub of information and action around efforts to suppress votes in the 2008 U.S. elections. For more information, please see our strategy and talking points, Baratunde Thurston’s launch post on Jack and Jill Politics, and my series of posts on Liminal States.  If you’d like to get involved, please introduce yourself, check the help wanted, roll up your sleeves, and jump in!

With only three weeks to go until Election Day on November 4, it’s time for the Voter Suppression Wiki to start shifting to action mode.  Our challenges at this point are pretty typical of nascent activism groups: building a large enough community and getting enough visibility to have an impact, linking up with partners and allies, getting good communications channels in place, and learning to work together effectively.

We’re doing pretty well on all of these fronts, actually: with over 100 people involved we’ve got the core of a community; we’re expecting more press attention later this week; and we’ve had initial discussions with allies like SourceWatch and their Election Protection Wiki, Twitter Vote Report‘s grassroots election-monitoring plan, and CREDO action’s SMS-based Immediate Response Network.  There’s also been a lot of good discussion on the wiki in threads like How can we do better at getting the word out? Still, tempus fugit; so now’s a good time to start moving things forward more quickly.

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Voter suppression wiki: what to discuss on Meet the Bloggers?

voter suppression wiki logoI’m currently scheduled to be on a Meet the Bloggers‘ discussion of voting rights on October 17, along with Brad Friedman of THE BRAD BLOG and presumably at least one other guest. It’s a great opportunity to get the word out about the Voter Suppression Wiki, and in particular to enlist other bloggers in helping us. What to discuss in my blog post (or posts) before the show?  What to concentrate on during the 30 precious minutes of airtime?  Where to focus energy for follow discussions?

I set up a page on the wiki to sketch my thinking — and even more importantly, to get others ideas. Feedback welcome, there or here!

Brad’s a voting rights expert, and so if I get a chance I’d rather focus on the activism and social computing aspects of our campaign. This ties in both with my recent experiences and my multi-year research agenda of computer science as a social science — and I think will be interesting in general for the Meet the Bloggers audience, because it’s not something I’ve seen discussed there before.

Here are some very quick initial thoughts on the topics I could potentially cover:

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TWO wikis, saving democracy?

voter suppression wiki logo

Within an hour after the announcement of the Voter Protection Wiki, we were tipped off that there’s another voting rights wiki in town, and it’s a doozy.  And sure enough, today SourceWatch is announcing the Election Protection wiki.* From their announcement:

Recent presidential elections were marred by controversies and disputes. Scores of individuals and organizations have been working to investigate and reform US elections, issuing reports and information on topics such as electronic voting machines, voter suppression campaigns and student voting rights. However, this information is spread across many different websites, news sources and databases. The Election Protection Wiki seeks to provide a single web portal for accessing this disparate information. Its information is non-partisan and factual; anyone of any political persuasion will be able to both read from and write to the wiki to help us all protect every American’s right to vote.

SourceWatch is best known for Congresspedia and their “Superdelegate Transparency Project”; they’ve got experience, a community, paid staff, and excellent connections with politicians and non-profits in DC and all over the country.  It’s a great thing for American democracy.

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Reflections: what I learned during my summer vacation

Apologies to my friends and relatives for being out of touch this summer….

Rather than going to the beach, I instead hung out in a variety of exotic online locales: my.barackobama.com, Wetpaint, Facebook, and the blogosphere (especially OpenLeft, Shakesville, Pam’s House Blend, and Jack and Jill Politics).  It was kind of a working vacation, engaging in and observing activism projects while thinking about the chapter on social network activism for Tales from the Net.   With the equinox and fall upon us, it seems like a good time to take stock.

Get FISA Right logoGet FISA Right‘s start as a group of Senator Obama’s supporters using my.barackobama.com (myBO) to put pressure on him, and then evolving to a “50-state strategy”, really highlights the power of social network-based movements.  We quickly became the largest group on myBO, and then Obama replied to our open letter* giving more details about his position on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) amendment than he had discussed with the press.  Even though he didn’t change his position, sometimes all you can say is “w00t w00t!”

At that point, we cracked the mainstream media (MSM) in a big way: The NY Times!  Time! Meet the Press!  And I did my part too: on Radio Nation’s Air America, mentions in a bunch of articles including the Washington Post and Wired, a brief snippet on CNN … fifteen seconds of fame 🙂

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A wiki, saving democracy?

But what about the votes that don’t count? What about the systematic attempts to erect barriers between voters and the ballot box? What about voter suppression?

In order to educate, document and mobilize action, I’m excited to introduce the Voter Suppression Wiki.

— Baratunde Thurston, Announcing The Launch Of The Voter Suppression Wiki – Learn, Report, Act on Jack and Jill Politics

In May, I was on a panel on e-Deceptive campaign practices at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference, and all the panelists agreed that with partisan feelings high and the polls likely to be close, this election would be particularly nasty from a voting rights perspective. Sure enough, potential issues are already cropping up: absentee ballot applications sent to voters with the wrong return addresses, a lawsuit in Wisconsin likely to cause incredibly-long lines at the polls, another suit in Ohio attempting to prevent people from voting when they register, misleading warnings from county officials in Virginia with the apparent purpose of discouraging college students from registering, and apparent plans to use foreclosure lists to challenge voters in Michigan that’s sparked a lawsuit from the Obama campaign.   And it’s only September!

Many forms of voter suppression* revolve around voter registration: voter caging and other ways of purging legitimate voters from databases, discouraging or preventing people from registering.  Others focus on preventing registered voters from actually voting: spreading false information about polling places, not providing enough ballots, intimidating rumors such as “you’ll be arrested if you have any outstanding parking tickets,” and poll workers not respecting voters’ rights.

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It’s the Fourth of July, and we’re fighting for our civil liberties

Originally sent to the Senator Obama – Please, No Telecom Immunity and Get FISA Right mailing list.

I certainly don’t mean to trivialize the situation. There’s a huge amount at stake and the anger, frustration, and disappointment so many of us (including me) feel comes through in every post. Realistically, the odds are still against us.

Still. We have a chance. We’re in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and in a conversation with Barack and his aides. Like the vast majority of us who have weighed in so far, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the content of his response, and I wish it had come out earlier in the day, but even so … we’re managing to get our voice heard. We’re not out of it yet.

We could turn the tide; and even if not, at the very least we’ve succeeded in getting our message out. There are a lot of people in this country who care about civil liberties, and we are getting very tired of telecom donations being put ahead of the rule of law.

It’s the Fourth of July, and we’re fighting for our civil liberties. How cool is that?

jon

To celebrate Independence Day, the Get FISA Right wiki is currently featuring fireworks. I heart wikis.

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