Saving Democracy with Twitter

Join the Voter Suppression Wiki!
Voter Suppression Wiki

It was inevitable that online political organizers would find innovative ways to use social media during this election season, but I am part of a project that’s got me incredibly excited about the organizing potential of Twitter. If you haven’t heard about the election cycle’s most controversial issue–voter suppression–you’ve been spending too much time reading Mashable and not enough time following the news. I’m not talking about the Republicans’ tarted up ACORN voter registration fraud “controversy” (something altogether different and much less serious than voter fraud), I’m talking about tactics deployed by political operatives to keep people from exercising their right and responsibility to vote.

Enter Twitter. Twitter is a micro-blogging tool that limits you to individual entries of 140 characters or less. Individuals use Twitter to share short messages with friends and family and whoever else they give permission to “follow” them. Now marketers and businesses are using Twitter to network and communicate with their customers and political organizers have begun using Twitter to spread important messages throughout their activist base. I wrote about the #dontgo movement, the first large-scale Twitter political activist campaign earlier this year, and it was only a matter of time before someone found a way to turn Twitter into a critical online political organizing tool for elections.

First, Comedian, activist, Obama supporter, and Jack & Jill Politics blogger Baratunde Thurston launched the Voter Suppression Wiki. Next, a series of discussions on and off blogs about how Twitter could be used to fight voter suppression ended with the formation of a group of political organizers and advocacy organizations collaborating on the ultimate democratic use for Twitter–tracking and notification of voter suppression across the country. How will it work? People on the ground will send coded “tweets” (messages) through Twitter. Anyone who is a victim or witness of voter suppression can send a tweet using the following simple hashtags to make sure that it’s received by volunteers who can coordinate the appropriate response.  The hashtags to be used to report voter supression are:

The tagged Twitter data will be parsed and distributed through feeds to several of the partners working on the project who will then be able to determine the needed response in each voting location reporting trouble. You can read more about the details on the Twitter Vote Report wiki.

Voter suppression and the Twitter Voter Report project is going to be a huge story on election day and all of you can be a part of it. Visit the Twitter Voter Report and find out how. Developers can join the nationwide Jelly network jam session and anyone can can share their experiences with other people in real-time using Twitter. You can help other voters not to show up when the lines are too long, and let the media and watchdog groups know that there are machinery problems or that voters are being asked for identification unnecessarily (or necessarily if they are first-time voters) in certain precincts.

You can be part of the most revolutionary use of social media yet. Stay tuned for more updates.

Some of the Twitter Vote Report Partners include:

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If you see ANY Voter related issues, please call
The campaign has hundreds of trained lawyers on the ground, in Washoe RIGHT NOW. If you wanna Tweet it too, great.

Sounds good, but keep in mind that you should do your Twittering 100 feet from the polling place, just to be safe. Election observers have to sign a Secretary of State form that says, among other things, that they won’t use their cell phones in the polling place while doing observation (per NAC 293.245). Obviously, someone who is not an official election observer might send a tweet or text message, but Washoe County election workers are trained to let voters know not to use their cell phones in the polling place. However, I can’t find any prohibition specific to voters rather than observers against using cell phones in a polling place in NRS 293 or NAC 293. (In contrast to the specific prohibitions on phone use by election observers I cited above or the general prohibition on electioneering under NRS 293.740)

So the point is that although I suspect that the Washoe County Registrar is reading NRS 293 too broadly with respect to voters’ use of cell phones at a polling place, someone using Twitter might get hassled by an election worker unless they are 100 feet away.

@kira kind of, but different…

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