After the last two presidential election fiascos, it’s hard to imagine what types of voter intimidation are too brazen and what barriers to access are too large for someone to attempt this time around. The electronic voting situation is rightly frightening. The problems with vote-switching are so rampant that Oprah made headlines discussing her electoral close-call. And even this important step, checking your vote, assumes that it’s counted by the shoddy technology!
For all of the cheapening of information begot by the Internet, there are some really intelligent, spontaneously developed organizations using new media to try to prevent the theft of the election. Video the Vote exploits voters’ digital cameras (or cell phones) to document fraud, intimidation, technological problems, and unreasonable waits at the nation’s polling places.
This kind of decentralized news gathering should provide great evidence of what is actually happening at polling places around the country. If the media are supposed to act as a deterrent force against corruption and fraud, how will the panoptic recording of the vote affect what people (mostly on the right) are willing to do? If there are questions about the legitimacy of the election, what will the tolerance be of video of intimidation and lines preventing the foreclosed, the poor, and the nonwhite from voting? Will CNN’s iReports be able to keep up? How quickly will these videos make it into the mainstream media.
But proof after the fact can only do so much. Both parties maintain teams of lawyers ready to act quickly to prevent abuses from continuing. But this requires the kind of real time information that can make a difference during the day. A group of users at Twitter – the Internet sensation that remains the most foreign to me – put together Twitter Vote Report, a project that uses guerrilla informatics to monitor the election in real time. If the project works as deisgned, it is possible that we will hear about problems before the polls’ close locks in the decision.
But what does this mean for the media consumer? Though Election Night television is already the most must-see event of the year, this year’s mediascape will be more informed by digital citizens’ journalism than ever before. Indeed, dramatic news coverage will probably continue all day, replacing the constant replays of candidates voting with their spouses.
I can’t wait.