Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Protecting The Right To Vote And Empowering Voters Through Collaboration

Since the record turnout of minority and young voters in 2008, there has been a wave of new laws that block access to the ballot box. The Brennan Center for Justice estimates that more than five million voters may be disenfranchised by the voting law changes. The most onerous restriction requires voters to present government-issued photo ID in order to vote.

On Tuesday, the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) hosted a panel discussion on how civil rights organizations, advocacy groups and ordinary citizens are using social media to protect the right to vote and fight strict photo ID requirements. Alan Rosenblatt, Associate Director of Online Advocacy for CAPAF, delivered welcoming remarks. Nicole Austin-Hillery, Director and Counsel in the Brennan Center’s DC Office, provided an overview of state photo ID laws.

The panel discussion was moderated by Vanessa Cárdenas, Director of Progress 2050, a project of the Center for American Progress. I was a panelist, along with Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation for the National Council of La Raza, Erika Maye, Communications Specialist with the Advancement Project, and Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange.

The panelists addressed a wide range of issues, including:

  • How are Latinos being impacted by proof of citizenship and strict photo ID requirements?
  • How is social media being used to mobilize young voters?
  • How will restricting third party voter registration drives impact the youth vote?
  • What voter ID legislation is currently pending in the states? Which states are being challenged?
  • Who are the funders and supporters of voter suppression laws? Who’s behind ALEC?

Faye Anderson gave a demo of the Cost of Freedom App, a location-based web app that will provide voters with information on how to get a voter ID. The prototype for the app was developed by Kin Lane, API Evangelist for CityGrid.

Users of the web app will be able to quickly access information about their state’s voter ID requirements, how to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate (the document that’s typically produced to establish one’s identity), and the location, hours and directions to the Office of Vital Records using public transit.

Anderson also gave a live demo of the Cost of Freedom text-based app developed by Jack Aboutboul, Twilio’s API Evangelist. Twilio is making an in-contribution of text message services to promote voter education.

Development of the web and text apps is crowd-sourced. As chief evangelist for the Cost of Freedom Project, Anderson is recruiting researchers and designers on Facebook, Twitter and Idealist. Indeed, the project is powered by We the People and social media.

For information on how you can get involved in this citizen-led initiative, please visit us at Facebook.com/CostofFreedom.

Cross post from article in Social Media Week by Faye Anderson.

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