Crowdsourcing The 2008 Election

Using powerful digital tools not even in alpha four years ago, Americans are documenting election day 2008, with special emphasis on the experience at the polls. We’ve entered the age of Big Brother surveillance, and he is us.

If you don’t know where you polling place is, or if you want to find polling places to monitor, check out the Google polling place finder.

Twitter Vote Report
Twitter Vote Report provides a mechanism for Americans to report on their voting experience, good or bad. It’s the project of a bunch of dedicated volunteers.

To participate, all you need is a cellphone, text-enabled or not, to report live or a web browser to provide a time-lagged report. The website has a map (GoogleAPI) showing current reports (“tweets” — read this if you aren’t familiar with Twitter).

  • Call the automated hotline at 567-258-VOTE (8683) or 208-272-9024 with any touch-tone phone.
  • Send a text message starting with #votereport to 66937 (MOZES).
  • If you have a Twitter Account, post a tweet with the hashtag #votereport.

If you are tweeting, there are some other hashtags to consider:

  • Report where you are voting: #[zip code] such as “#12345″
  • Report wait times: #wait:[minutes] such as “#wait:120 and I’m coming back later”
  • Report registration problems: #reg such as “#reg I wasn’t on the rolls”
  • Rate your experience: #good or #bad
  • Report a serious problem and that you need help from the Election Protection coalition: #EP[your state] such as #EPWA

Video Your Vote – PBS + YouTube
Shoot a video of your voting experience and upload it to YouTube at VideoYourVote. You can learn what the rules are in your state at the Citizen Media Law Project.

In Washington, state law doesn’t expressly prohibit all recording inside polling places, but public display of your own marked ballot is prohibited. Here’s the list of prohibited acts.

Video The Vote
Video the Vote has been in the works since 2006 and is a project of the Guerrilla News Network, Shoot First, Inc., and ColorOfChange.org.

You can also mark tweets for Video The Vote; just use the hashtag #vtv .

The process is pretty straightforward,like any other social networking site. Create an account; shoot a video; upload to the VideoTheVote. Here’s an example:

Voter Suppression Wiki
The Voter Suppression Wiki project is in part an educational effort to help all voters understand what suppression is. It is also a way to centralize citizen-generated reports of suppression. Because this is a wiki, this isn’t real-time reporting (for most of us, anyway) but more thoughtful and detailed reports; you can also include photos.

Closing Thoughts
I wrote the bit about Big Brother in only partial jest. These monitoring projects were developed for the most idealistic of reasons. But they do give me pause, and provide yet another example of both the erosion of privacy and the merging of offline and online lives. One step closer to the worlds envisioned by William Gibson in Neuromancer, by Orson Scott Card in The Ender’s Game series, by the BBC producers of The Last Enemy. And while I am a firm believer in the open source philosophy of give us enough eyes and we’ll catch the bugs, what happens when the “eyes” have an agenda or when someone skillfully shifts the collective vision in a specific direction.

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