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 fliers,  Election 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


A recommendation that showed up in several different ways in the Voter Suppression Wiki’s Workshop on Last-minute strategies to reduce voter suppression is that people should print stuff out, post it in community hubs, and take it with them to the polls.  There is a lot of great information out there; it doesn’t do people any good if the can’t see it and can’t get to it when you need it.

A good example of this is the AFL-CIO’s excellent My Vote, My Right state-by-state voter bill of rights fliers.  These have a small number of vital pieces of information: Voter ID and change of residence rules; restrictions on clothing, buttons, and caps; a buffer zone or “electioneering perimeter”; and the 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) hotline number.  It’s well-suited for posting on a bulletin board, or for carrying with you.  They’re English-language only (at least as far as I know) and only available for half the states, but that includes most of the battleground states where tensions are highest.

For Spanish-speakers, Ya Es Hora‘s Encuentre su Estado on is the place to go, with a clickable map taking you to information for your state.  [The Election Protection Coalition‘s state-by-state information on has similar information in English, with a lot more details than the My Vote, My Right fliers (and covering all 50 states).]

Great, English and Spanish, in all 50 states, we’re done, right?   Well no.  There are a lot of voters who are native speakers of other languages or have special issues: students, ex-felons, voters with disabilities, and so on. There’s a lot of excellent information out there, such as US Election Assistance voter guides in 中文 (Chinese), 日本語 (Japanese), 한국어 (Korean), Tagalog , Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese), the Brennan Center’s state-by-state student voting rights, the National Disability Rights Network’s Election-day information for voters with disabilities, and a wealth of information from the ACLU for many states including sheets on felon disenfranchisment, “voter empowerment cards”, and a few specialized offerings like Wisconsin voting rights in Hmong.

I’m certainly not suggesting everybody should print everything out … use some sense here.  Still, if you happen to live in Wisconsin and know some Hmong-speakers, you might want to make sure they’ve got a copy of the information handy — and if they don’t have access to printers, print it out for them.  And the same goes for people in any other group that’s a likely target of voter suppression.

[There are still quite a few things missing from this list.  Is there any information targeted specifically at seniors?  I couldn’t find anything from a quick search of the AARP’s site.  What about Native Americans?   Arabic speakers?  Transgendered people?  And so on … if anybody knows good additinal resources, please leave them in a comment.]

All this information comes from well-known and relatively large organizations.  One obvious reason for this: it takes a lot of time, money, and legal expertise to create and check this kind of information, and then present it effectively.  Just as important is the question of trust: why should voters rely on this information?  Even if you don’t like the AFL-CIO, you’re likely to believe that they’re trying to give good information to their members here — labor is spending eighty-skazillion dollars on this election, so they’re not going to cut corners on stuff like this.  Similarly, when you see names like the National Alliance of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) and their partners for Ya es hora, or the Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights, the Women’s Donor Network, and their partners in the Election Protection Coalition, it inspires confidence.

One thing that’s missing from all this information is a handy overview pointing people to it.  If you’re online, this post is probably as good a place to start as any; but imagine that you’re at your local synagogue on Saturday (or mosque on Friday, or church on Saturday) and somebody says something like “my neighbor’s in a wheelchair and doesn’t know what to do.”  Are you likely to remember the NDRN, let alone their URL?  Probably not.  So it’d be very useful one-page version of this information that’s optimized for printing — and this would also be a great resource for citizen journalists or anybody else who wants to be a resource to take to the polls on Tuesday.  There are enough people planning on documenting this election that it’s very likely that somebody will have a smartphone there, or at the very least be able to text or tweet the info to somebody they know who can look it up and get back with an answer.

So two more documents to add to the list: the Voter Suppression Wiki volunteer resource pages If you have voting problems, and its companion More options for the tech-savvy, both linked from our Printable resources page.  If you have voting problems covers how to report problems, and has printable links to a lot of additional information.  More options for the tech-savvy lists some of the citizen journalism  various initiatives like Video the Vote, Wired’s web-based reporting system, My Fair Election, and so on; and has a half-page of instructions for the Twitter Vote Report.  Kudos to cyberroth who did a great job of designing these initial versions under time pressure and dealing with rapid changes from a lot of directions!  These are still early drafts, and so there’s room for improvement; still, they’re a lot better than nothing.  Please have a look, and give feedback — and maybe print them out.

And once you have printed out copies of a few of these documents, please share them with friends.  If you’ve got an understanding boss and a fast office printer, consider printing out a stack of the My Vote My Right sheets and sharing them over the weekend; or post one on the bulletin board of your local hangout or church.  You get the idea.

Originally I was going to call this post “Building a better election by stealing office supplies”, in homage to Scott Adams’ Dilbert book, but that’s not really what we’re recommending.  If you’d get in trouble for printing stuff out at work, don’t; if your company’s having troubles financially, it’s not a good time to print out 10,000 copies.  Still I really think that most companies won’t mind it if their employees leverage their printer resources by print out a few copies … and of course there are plenty of people who have printers at home.  If enough people get involved it can really help get the word out this weekend — and at the polls.

So please, leverage away.  And then share over the weekend!


PS: And speaking of weekend, this is Halloween weekend in San Francisco, and so I’m going to be offline for most of it.  I’ll certainly be checking in from time to time, but please don’t be surprised if I lag on responding to comments here or messages on the wiki.  Please try to route around me by communicating directly with other members.  We’ll probably schedule an organizing phone call for Sunday evening, and a media phone call for Monday morning … details to follow.  Have a great weekend, and happy Halloween!