Shakira was monitoring Facebook as part of the research team when she noticed a post from an acquaintance in Florida saying she received a robo-call reminding her to vote tomorrow. This was odd since it was election day. Shakira tracked down confirmation from other people who received the call. Our production team turned the content into shareable posts and the media team wrote a media advisory and began pitching the story. A news team was on the scene two hours later reporting yet another effort to disenfranchise voters with misinformation.
This was the first of what would be many similar stories when Corelab ran the media center for Video the Vote out of a small bar/art space in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The beers came out early.
I was too busy celebrating the success of the project. Our system worked with incredible efficiency and throughout the day the stories from Video the Vote users ended up on TV screens across the country. We exposed electoral trickery like the attempts to give voters the wrong voting days (not just in Florida), and helped keep polling places open late with footage of incredibly long lines in Ohio and Florida. Success.
We transitioned from work to party mode and I was in high spirits. That is until the many foreigners who volunteered for the day started questioning me about our voting system. Aussies, Brits, Canadians and Mexicans all wanted to know, “What the hell is going on here.” They had never seen anything quite like it. Who knew voting was so damned hard — in the “Greatest democracy in the world!” It really hit me at 1:42 a.m. when President Obama finished his victory speech…some Florida voters were still in line. Twelve years after the complete failure of our voting system in the 2000 election, the situation was much, much worse. It would get worse still as the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act.
We met in the Corelab Studio earlier this year to talk through projects that each of us found important and exciting. Everybody knew where I wanted to focus already — Voting Rights. In addition to providing support to some great voting rights projects, we are launching a new blog, Ballots and Beer. When you take a hard look at the U.S. election system, you’ll need a beer in hand.
Far from being a “dead” medium, blogging is a crucial tool in raising issues and voices that deserve attention, but might otherwise be ignored. We were reminded of this during Blog Action Day this year, and as recently as Sunday, when Russian bloggers exposed the presence of Russian soldiers in Syria. On a selfish level, blogging is a great way to stay abreast of an issue and most importantly, make connections with others in the space. Please, get in touch with us if you are working on or interested in voting rights issues and feel free to add ballotsandbeer at gmail.com to your mailing and press lists if you work with a voting rights organization.
The exciting news is that many incredible groups are working to bring about change in 2016 and beyond. It’s time to move off our heels and start pushing forward. And if you need a bit of motivation, I leave you with this sobering quote:
The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States.
Majority opinion, Bush v Gore, US Supreme Court, 2000
I need a beer.
You can checkout the blog at http://ballotsandbeer.xyz