This election season, we've seen communication technologies like SMS and social networking sites take a more active and more sophisticated role in politics than ever before. A recently developed website, twittervotereport.com, allows voters across the U.S. to connect with one another in real time via short messages sent various ways: from cell phones, Twitter accounts, or even home phones.
Worldchanging contributor Nancy Scola was one of the founders of this innovative volunteer project, which went live last Wednesday in the hopes of helping identify and smooth any problems voters encountered, whether during early voting on in-person at the polls. The format has generated considerable attention from media organizations including NPR, and the recognition is helping drive response rates even higher.
As this article by The American Prospect's Jessica Clark notes, twittervotereport has offered users a chance to call out warnings like this one, from Michigan:
"My #early #votereport - absentee ballots in #48823 require extra postage. Don't let a $0.15 slipup keep your voice from being heard!"
The story of twittervote's creation is, in itself, a testament to innovative interaction. It started with an idea that Scola and colleague Allison Fine blogged on the site techPresident (a side project of the Personal Democracy Forum). The post offered a list of specific prescriptions for using Twitter to address common problems that plague U.S. general elections.
According to Scola, most of the volunteer developers, organizers and activists behind the project never met in person. "Through chatting in IRC chat rooms, Google Groups nad the occasional conference call," she says, "we've built what I think is a ground-breaking way of people being engaged in how elections work. This whole thing went from a humble blog post to a fairly big networked effort in less than a month."
To add your experience to the thread, use your Twitter account or text 66937 to send a short message containing the tag #votereport (you can also use other tags, outlined here to further specify your location, type of complaint, etc.). To contribute using a home phone, call 567-258-VOTE. For more information, visit twittervotereport.com.
Also note: due to overwhelming traffic today, the site has been experiencing some difficulties. If for any reason you can't access www.twittervotereport.com, you can still contribute comments, and view incoming responses in real time on Twitter.
Photo of voters lining up at their polling place in Brooklyn, New York. Credit: flickr/elisbrown, Creative Commons license.
The shock for me is that postage would be necessary for a ballot. In Canada, we don't need a stamp when writing an MP. However, I'm not sure whether absentee ballots require a stamp - even if it seems it ought to be free.
As an American voter who waited in a three hour voting line I don't understand how technology was developed and implemented that connected voters in real time with the media, yet no new technology was implemented that improved our voting system. Especially when so many analysts had already predicted that there was going to be problems at the polls this year.
As a web designer I try to stay on top of all new emerging technologies and so many technological innovations are out there just waiting to be tapped into that could easily improve our voting process. One example, in Canada Data Gardens just released a new technology called Syntropy. This technology allows for companies to establish a computer network without servers. In other words, a company could pick up and move their computer systems via the network at a moments notice.
Daniel Haran, you made such a good point. In Canada you don't have to pay for postage when writing an MP, yet in America your ballet gets returned if it is 15 cents short on postage. But then again in Canada a company can create a computer network and move it from place to place with great ease. That kind of makes the whole postage situation a bit archaic, don't you think.