Can Twitter Save Democracy?

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

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:

  • #votereport
  • #EP{two-letter state code} - e.g. EPNY for New York, EPOH for Ohio (for serious legal issues only)
  • #machine - use this tag to signal a problem with a voting machine
  • #registration - use this tag to signal problems with the registration process, people being turned away for paperwok reasons
  • #wait:time - use this tag to signal a long wait. Add a colon and
    the wait time in minutes - e.g. #wait:30 for half an hour, #wait:120
    for two hours

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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