New Wiki Counters GOP Voter Suppression
Can Wikipedia help vanquish voter suppression in America?
That’s the model some activists are betting on.
Democrats have been moving swiftly to fight Republican voter suppression tactics in Michigan. Since first reported by our sister site, The Michigan Messenger, a GOP effort to suppress voters based on home foreclosures has drawn a lawsuit from the Obama campaign; calls for a Justice Dept. investigation, from Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and demands from grass-roots activists that Sen. John McCain condemn these practices.
(So far, McCain’s “honest and open election committee” did not even make a pretense of returning calls about the issue.)
Now bloggers and techies are developing a dedicated Voter Suppression Wiki — a centralized, open source online portal — to help track, expose and prevent voter suppression this cycle.
The wiki tracks incidents of voter suppression, and enables citizens to upload alleged examples of suppression. An “action center” links visitors to a range of local and national programs working to combat suppression. Jon Pincus, a social networking activist whom I met while working against warrantless spying, argues that Web activism is helpful here because most suppression turns on information gaps:
Almost all voter suppression relies to a large extent on information asymmetry. If voters know that they may have been purged from the database and it’s still before the registration deadline, they can check and if necessary re-register. If college students know that they actually won’t put their student loans at risk by registering, then they’ll ignore the misleading information from the county…. So simple as it sounds, broad awareness of potential voter suppression efforts and how to counter them, both during the registration period and in the final rush to voting, could make a huge difference
The wiki was just launched by Jack and Jill Politics, a site that bills itself as “a Black bourgeois perspective on U.S. politics,” and has already drawn attention from a range of bloggers, including writers at DailyKos, Huffington Post, Brad Blog, MyDD, Vivir Latino and Hullabaloo. While it’s critical that the press — particularly local and independent reporters — uncover these tactics, this wiki could help the cause by tapping the experience and activism of citizens around the country.