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

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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!

Sure enough, when I posted my last blog to my feed and a couple of friend’s walls on Facebook, a couple of different people replied “thanks very much, I’ll send the message on.”  That doesn’t sound like a heck of a lot, but if they reach out to their friends and family, and maybe mention it in their office, school, or church, it can have an impact.  If you multiply this by the 125 people involved in the Voter Suppression Wiki — and whoever else reads any of our posts or forwarded email — it starts to really add up.  So please, if you’re in North Carolina (or know people who do), help spread the word.

In my last post, I mentioned that this is a prototypical case of where we see the Voter Suppression Wiki as having value by supplementing other mechanisms of getting the word out, and especially since this is our first action alert, it’s a great learning experience.  For example, one thing that caught me by surprise is a reaction in several places that this is no big deal at all, for example somebody on OpenLeft who thought it was a better use of their time to downplay the importance of this than to help get the word out.  Hmm.*

Straight party warning from the NC ballotSo one takeaway is that we need to be clearer about the potential consequences, both in terms of voting rights (40,000 people losing their votes) and for those who are viewing things primarily through a partisan lens (enough to tip the election).

And more generally this story isn’t getting a lot of pickup in the voting rights or progressive blogospheres.  For example, it wasn’t even in VotersUnite‘s Daily Voting News 30+ stories either of the last two days, despite the excellent Facing South posts and the local media attention.  What’s with that?  Yeah, I know there are plenty of other stories going on, and this isn’t as sexy as hacking the Ohio Secretary of State or the Texas deceptive emails, but still … we’re talking 40,000 or more votes here, and it’s a situation where concerted action before the election can make a big difference.  I don’t have any great ideas here (suggestions welcome) but it certainly seems like an area we should be able to do better at.

More generally this a good chance to look at how we’re approaching things.  For example the information we want in an action alert is somewhat different than in the incident report, with the focus on what voters and activists can do.  So I created a new action alert page on the wiki — a decent start, and once we refine it we can use it as a template for future action alerts.  And as we start issuing more alerts, we’ll want to make it easy for people to get them, so we set up the vswiki-alerts Google Group that people can subscribe to if they want email updates.**

Things will get steadily more intense over the next couple of weeks, and so now’s a good time to be trying  things out … and looking for ways to improve, hopefully in time to impact our next action alert.***  So please, even if you’re in some state other than North Carolina, have a look and imagine the likely alerts wherever you live.  If you’re an activist, is the information enough so that you can figure out how to help?  If you’re a blogger or journalist, is there enough there and on the incident page that you could cover the story?  If you’re a voter, is the result clear?  There’s a feedback thread at the bottom of the page, so please let us know what works and what doesn’t.

And don’t forget that there are at least 40,000 votes at risk in North Carolina, so please help get the word out.  From the action alert:

Tell your friends and family. Share with your friends on Facebook, MySpace, BlackPlanet, and other social networks. Encourage bloggers and local media to cover the story. Discuss it at your workplace and church. If you’re with a political campaign, include the information with Get Out the Vote drives. Other suggestions? See the discussion thread!


*  Frankly I think some of the dynamics playing into this a disbelief the people could make this “obvious” a mistake (which flies in the face of past data) and an elitist notion that anybody who is “dumb enough” to make this mistake should have less of a right to vote.  This of course has all kinds of discriminatory implications related to age, urban/rural bias, native language, and probably lots of other dimensions as well … but most people don’t think it through that much.

** for those who prefer RSS, we’re working on getting a feed in place

The 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!