#cfp08 Project VoteProtector

After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, volunteers self organized a project on the Internet to help people find missing loved ones. Hurricane Katrina disproportionately affected poor people and African-Americans. This afternoon at Computers, Freedom and Privacy there was a workshop on deceptive campaign practices. Many ideas were presented and it struck me that perhaps a project similar to PeopleFinder, let’s call in VoteProtector, should be created.

The groundwork was laid by discussing ways that people have presented deceptive information in an effort to suppress votes, particularly of the poor, minorities, and increasingly, of the youth. Tova Wang of Common Cause and Lillie Coney of the Electronic Privacy Information Center led a discussion including Jenigh J. Garrett of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, John Aristotle Phillips, co-founder of Aristotle, Jon Pincus of Tales from the Net, and Ruchi Bhorwmik who works as legislative counsel to Senator Barack Obama.

Many stories were told about spreading false information in efforts to discourage voters from voting or telling them to vote at wrong locations or on wrong days.

A lively discussion followed about different ways of addressing this. One part of the solution is to get more people aware of 1 866 Our Vote, a phone number, and a website that can be used to get people to report voting irregularities and seek help. The problem is getting more people to know about this, to know about their voting rights and to work together to fight deceptive practices.

It struck me that a project like PeopleFinder focusing on these issues could be a powerful way to do this. People could create tools to mashup reports of voting suppression efforts. These efforts could quickly be brought to the attention of the press in the area of the attempted voting suppression. Voting rights, on a state by state basis could be explained. What are the rules about registering to vote? What sort of identification do you need do you need to bring with you to the polls? What are your options for early voting, absentee voting, and provisional ballots?

What are the rules about voting if you’ve been convicted of a felony? I believe some states allow felons to vote. Others do not. Many have rules about felons being able to vote after they have served their time, and perhaps done a few other tasks to get their voting rights back.

Techniques to make encourage voting and discourage voting suppression could be discussed, such as the great idea of getting a group of people to go to the polls together. If you go as part of a group, you are less likely to be turned away, and you are more likely to stand up for your rights if challenged.

This could then be promoted across all the social networks, not only Facebook, which serves a demographic which is perhaps less likely to run into voter suppression activities, but also MySpace, Hi5, and many other sites that have a tendency of getting overlooked.

So, anyone want to pick up the Project VoteProtector ball and run with it?