Thursday, April 30, 2015

21st-Century Electioneering

It’s fair to say that Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential bid marked a watershed moment for political campaigners. This was a campaign covered in Silicon Valley’s fingerprints, characterized as it was by its widespread use of technology to capture and record data to deliver targeted messages to voters.

As one former Obama campaign manager said: “We stopped thinking in terms of ‘soccer moms’ and started thinking instead about ‘Mary Smith at 37 Pivot Street.’”

What was once done with pen and paper is now being done in real time and at a staggering pace, providing politicians and their election teams with a far richer picture of voters than previously possible.

Next month will see the UK head to the polls for its first general election since 2010, which has been described as one of the most unpredictable in living memory. Throughout Westminster, political parties are putting their faith in technology to gain an edge over their rivals, defend vulnerable seats and better connect with the electorate. Both Labour candidate Ed Miliband and Prime Minister David Cameron have hired former Obama advisers to head up their campaign teams, which look to replicate the success of Democrats in securing key votes.

These are techniques that have been the mainstay of the private sector for more than a decade, whether through Tesco’s original Clubcard system or Amazon’s “People who bought…” tracker. Retailers have ploughed billions into profiling technology that analyzes shopping habits to work out exactly who their shoppers are and how they behave. Why? Because it pays for them to know if you’re a “wholesome foodie,” “time-poor, food rich professional” or “Netflix loving hipster.”

Today’s political parties are aping commercial practices, such as these to splice and dice their electorate by their individual priorities, interests and issues. Politicians want to know who votes and what motivates them, what they value and how they feel about key issues, adapting their campaign strategies accordingly.

Information gleaned from private polling, membership logs and door-to-door canvassing is fed back to party headquarters, combined with location and electoral register information to draw up a map of supporters, opponents and floating voters.

Full Article: Digital Democracy Or 21st-Century Electioneering | TechCrunch.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Texas' Voter Photo I.D. Law On Appeal

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans today heard oral arguments for the State of Texas' appeal of U.S. Southern District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos' decision to block Texas' photo I.D. law.

After a two-week trial on the constitutionality of Texas' photo I.D. law in September 2014, Judge Ramos struck down Texas' voter photo I.D. law with a 147-page finding issued on October 9, 2014. Judge Ramos found the law had been adopted “with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” created “an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote” and amounted to a poll tax. The state of Texas petitioned the Fifth Circuit Court to stay Judge Ramos' order, pending appeal, which proceeded today.The stay was granted and the law remains in effect, pending the Fifth Circuit's decision on the appeal.

The 2011 SB14 law reduced the types of identification documents voters can show to vote from fourteen down to one of just seven types of photo identification documents. Four are available from the Texas Department of Public Safety — driver’s licenses, personal IDs, concealed-handgun permits, and election identification certificates. Federally issued passports, citizenship certificates and military IDs also are acceptable.

The Texas photo voter I.D. lawsuit is unique among legal challenges to similar voter I.D. laws adopted by other states, because Federal District Judge Ramos found evidence of intentional racial discrimination by Texas Republican legislators in drafting the SB14 voter I.D. legislation in 2011.

The full Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is one of the most conservative in the nation. The three-judge panel who will rule on the appeal is composed of: Chief Judge Carl Stewart, appointed by President Bill Clinton; Judge Catharina Haynes, appointed by President George W. Bush; and Judge Nannette Brown, appointed by President Barack Obama.

Two lawyers representing Plaintiffs’ in the case today gave oral arguments to the three-judge panel in support of Judge Ramos' finding. Arguing for Judge Ramos' decision were Erin Flynn with the U.S. Justice Department, and Chad Dunn, representing the lead plaintiffs in the Texas case — U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth) and the League of United Latin American Citizens. Scott Keller of the Texas Solicitor General's Office argued against Judge Ramos' finding, defending Texas' voter I.D. law.

MP3 audio of today's court arguments and questioning.
Keller and the Plaintiffs’ lawyers were allowed 20 minutes to present oral arguments for their sides of case. The three-judge panel followed up by questioning the lawyers on their positions.

It’s Not A Tea Party

Weekly Sift:

The South is a place, but the Confederacy is a worldview. To this day, that worldview is strongest in the South, but it can be found all over the country.

The Boston Tea Party protest was aimed at a Parliament where the colonists had no representation, and at an appointed governor who did not have to answer to the people he ruled.

Today’s Tea Party faces a completely different problem: how a shrinking conservative minority can keep change at bay in spite of the democratic processes defined in the Constitution. That’s why they need guns. That’s why they need to keep the wrong people from voting in their full numbers.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Slavery by Another Name

Slavery by Another Name is a 90-minute PBS documentary about how thousands of African Americans were pulled back into forced labor with shocking force and brutality in the post Civil War years through the mid-1940s.

Based on the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name spans eight decades, from 1865 to 1945, revealing the interlocking forces in both the South and the North that enabled this “neoslavery” to begin and persist. It was a system in which men, often guilty of no crime at all, were arrested, compelled to work without pay, repeatedly bought and sold, and coerced to do the bidding of masters.

The documentary premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and had its national broadcast on PBS on Feb. 13, 2012.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Online Voter Registration For Texans?

Texas could become the 27th state to allow online voter registration, if two bills on the House Elections Committee's schedule for this week, HB 76 and HB 953, receive favorable consideration.

These bills propose allowing voters who have an unexpired Texas driver's license or personal identification card to register online and have that application automatically authenticated rather than having to hand print a paper registration application form and wait on local election officials to data-enter the information into their systems and verify it.

Those Texans who do not have a Texas driver's license or personal identification card would still have to mail in the old paper registration form.

Call, email, or write your State House Representative and Senator and say you want them to vote for online voter registration!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Citizen Journalism

The process of gathering and reporting news has changed significantly due to the advent of the Web, which has enabled the increasing involvement of citizens in news production. This trend has been given many names, including Citizen Journalism, participatory journalism, and crowd-sourced journalism.

Citizen Journalism describes the different kinds of journalism people can do on their own, without media companies or professional salaried journalists necessarily involved.

This can be as simple as regularly commenting on news story in the Dallas Morning News that adds information or perspective the reporter left out, writing letters to the editor or as demanding as self-publishing a news and editorial blog on the Internet.

Citizen journalists are members of the public who play an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, fact checking and disseminating news and information. The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Plano Independent School District Voting Starts April 27th

A strong public school system is not only good for our children, it also promotes business growth and keeps our residential property values strong. Early Voting for the May 9, 2015 election starts on Monday, April 27th.

Geographical school districts in Texas are completely independent from city or county jurisdiction, and are governed by a board of trustees.  Texas school district boundaries are not always aligned with county or city boundaries; a district can occupy several counties and cities, while a single city (especially larger ones such as Dallas, Houston, or San Antonio) may be split between several districts. Almost all Texas school districts use the title "Independent School District", or ISD. 

Plano's public school system is among the largest in Texas and is nationally rated as one of the best school systems in the nation. The quality of Plano schools is among the major factors convincing companies like Toyota to locate their national corporate headquarters to Plano.

City and School Board Elections In Collin Co

Early Voting for the May 9, 2015 election starts on Monday, April 27th.  Information about candidates can be found in the League of Women Voters of Collin County Voter's Guide
Early Voting Dates.
  • April 27-29: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • April 30: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • May 1-2: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • May 4-5: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Election Day May 9, 2015 7:00 a.m.- 7:00 p.m.

Click here to review Collin County Elections sample ballots and polling place information

Click here to review voter Registration and I.D. Requirements

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Your Campaign's Digital Media Strategy - Getting Started

If you are thinking about running for election in 2016, it's time for you to map out your digital campaign strategy.  A full mobile friendly campaign website is a must have, plus, Facebook and Twitter are essential social media sites (SMS) to drive your message across, sign up supporters, gather online donations, recruit volunteers and more. How do you get a beautiful new site that meets your needs, on time and on budget? It’s challenging, even for well funded campaigns.

Before you get started, there are pitfalls to watch out for. Let’s start with what the three deadly sins of campaign websites:

Campaigns and Elections

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Millennial Generation Electorate

Journalist's Resource

Political strategists and candidates will be well-served to keep their eyes on an important demographic shift while thinking about how to connect with Millennial generation voters.

In 2015, the Millennial generation — those ages 18 to 34, and born between 1981 and 1997 — is set to become larger than the Baby Boom generation. (This will be true, even as the country’s median age continues to rise.)

Over the next three decades or so, the cohort of Baby Boomers will decline in size steadily, and by mid-century only about 1 in 5 will be living, as the Pew Research Center points out.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Voting Rights, By The Numbers

The Supreme Court struck down section 4 of the Voting Rights Act in June 2013 say that section of the VRA is outdated. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion saying, "discrimination against minority voters may have been pervasive in the 1960s when [section 4 of] the law was passed, but nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically.”

Under Justice Roberts reasoning, the law was still punishing states and local governments covered under section 4 for discriminatory practices the majority of Justices argued ended years ago. Section 4 of the VRA specified all or parts of 16 states and local jurisdictions, with long histories of overt racial discrimination in voting, mostly in the South, that were required to get approval from the federal government for any proposed change to their voting laws, as specified under VRA section 5.

The section 5 process, known as preclearance, stopped hundreds of discriminatory new laws from taking effect, and deterred lawmakers from introducing countless more. Without section 4, the section 5 is useless. Chief Justice Roberts, writing the 5-4 majority opinion, invalidated section 4 arguing, “today’s statistics tell an entirely different story.” In fact, today’s statistics tell a story little changed from the 1960s.

A comprehensive new study by a historian of the Voting Rights Act provides a fresh trove of empirical evidence that refutes Chief Justice Roberts' assertion. The study by J. Morgan Kousser, a professor of history and social science at the California Institute of Technology, examines more than 4,100 voting-rights cases, Justice Department inquiries, settlements and changes to laws in response to the threat of lawsuits around the country where the final result favored minority voters.

It found that from 1957 until 2013, more than 90 percent of these legal “events” occurred in jurisdictions that were required to preclear their voting changes. The study also provides evidence that the number of successful voting-rights suits has gone down in recent years, not because there is less discrimination, but because several Supreme Court decisions have made them harder to win.

Full Article: Voting Rights, by the Numbers –

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Texas Lawmakers Say Frackers Can Drill In Homeowners' Backyards

UPDATED May 18, 2015

A Texas House bill supported by energy companies that prevents cities and counties from regulating hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and other oil and gas drilling on their land was passed by the House legislators on Friday.

House Bill 40 by Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo) passed on a 122-18 bipartisan House vote. The bill is widely seen as a response to a fracking ban passed by Denton voters last November. The Texas Oil and Gas Association, representing major energy companies, has sued Denton and has been lobbying lawmakers. Denton sits on a gas-rich shale formation that stretches across 24 counties in north Texas.

The Senate approved the bill and Gov. Abbott signed the bill into law, overturning Denton’s fracking ban, Dallas’ drilling ordinance, and nullifies city ordinances around the state.

Denton and other cities around Texas have been trying to literally keep fracking gas drillers out of homeowners' backyards and public school playgrounds.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process used in nine out of 10 natural gas wells in the United States, where millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to break apart the rock and release the gas. Scientists are worried that the chemicals used in fracturing may pose a threat either to underground aquifers or when waste fluids seep into lakes and public water supplies.

The rise in earthquakes as a result of fracking poses a massive problem for the oil and gas industry. The primary hydraulic fracturing drilling process does not foster earthquakes. Rather, the injection of waste water back into the ground that contributes to fault lines “slipping,” which results in heightened seismic activity.

Oklahoma has become the earthquake capital of the United States, surpassing even tremor-prone California. Oklahoma has averaged less than two earthquakes of a magnitude 3.0 or greater over the last 30 years. Shockingly, however, that rate has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2013, the state experienced 585 earthquakes with at least a 3.0 magnitude. If the current rate of earthquakes continues, Oklahoma could have 875 by the end of 2015.


State Preempts Municipal Control Over Gas Drilling

Friday, April 17, 2015

Republicans Vote Deficit Increase With Big Tax Giveaway

House Republicans voted Thursday to repeal the estate tax, a longtime priority of Republicans. Not wanting Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton to get too far ahead of them talking about policies that benefit working people, not the wealthy, Republicans talk like champions of the middle class, complaining bitterly about the wealthy benefiting almost exclusively from the recent economic recovery.

Not walking the walk of the talk they talk, House Republicans, en masse, voted for a $269 billion tax giveaway to the wealthiest 0.2% Americans. The House bill now moves to the Senate, where the Republican majority is eager to support it.

Under the plan, GOP lawmakers, who occasionally pretend to care about “fiscal responsibility,” would simply add the entire $269 billion cost to the deficit, leaving future generations to pay for a massive tax break for the hyper-wealthy.

At a time of rising economic inequality, House Republicans have prioritized a bill to make economic inequality worse on purpose. At a time in which much of Congress wants to make the deficit smaller, House Republicans have prioritized a bill to make the deficit much larger. At a time when prosperity is concentrated too heavily at the very top, House Republicans have prioritized a bill to deliver enormous benefits to multi-millionaires and billionaires – and no one else.

Asked to defend this, Republican House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters, confusing the facts, “The estate tax’s repeal is long overdue. Remember, all of this money that families have saved has all been taxed, much of it multiple times. Conservatives claim that the estate tax is a “death tax,” wrongly implying that the tax is paid when every American dies. In fact, the tax primarily is paid by estates of multi-millionaires and billionaires. The vast majority of deaths — 99.9% — do not trigger estate taxes today.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Preparing Big Data Social Media for Hillary


Meet the 21st-Century Political Alchemist Who’s Been Data-Mining for Hillary for the Past Two Years. The Bloomberg article gives a deep dive into the modern data-driven campaign with Obama veteran and Ready for Hillary senior strategist Mitch Stewart.

The 39-year-old Stewart has risen to the highest rank of Democratic operatives by thinking holistically about how those pieces of a modern campaign fit together, and how strategies and budgets need to change accordingly.

Read the full story at

Texas Photo I.D. Law Appeal Takes A Step Forward

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has set Tuesday, April 28th, as the date to hear oral arguments for the State of Texas' appeal of U.S. Southern District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos' decision to block Texas' photo I.D. law. The law remains in effect, pending the Fifth Circuit's decision on the appeal.

After a two-week trial hearing on the constitutionality of Texas' photo I.D. law conducted in September 2014, Judge Ramos struck down Texas' voter photo I.D. law with a 147-page opinion issued on October 9, 2014.

Judge Ramos found the law had been adopted “with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose,” created “an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote” and amounted to a poll tax. Two days later, and less than two weeks before the start of early voting for the November 2014 gubernatorial election, Judge Ramos entered an injunction blocking the law.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Social Media Activist Seminar

This social media activist seminar, on Saturday, April 18th, at 9:00 a.m., Collin College, Frisco, will provide an introduction on how to effectively use social media to communicate with voters.

The seminar will include a general overview on using social media for voter outreach and activation and focus specifically on how to use Facebook.

We will cover tips and tricks on using social media for outreach and to welcome people to help spread the word about Democratic candidates and issue positions!

All activists, volunteers, precinct chairs, and anyone interested in helping elect democrats in 2016 and beyond are encouraged to attend!

Click to the Facebook events page for details and to tell us you are going to join us for this seminar.

‘Tea Party Patriot’ Realizes GOP Will Kill His Obamacare

A conservative video blogger with over a million views on YouTube said this week that he would likely vote for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton because he was terrified that a Republican president would take away his affordable health insurance.

James Webb, a 51-year-old YouTube Tea Party celebrity who devotes his “Hot Lead” channel to rightwing rants, revealed he is torn over which party to vote for in the 2016 election.

“And I’m serious because I asked myself, ‘Which party has helped me out the most in the last, I don’t know, 15 years, 20?’ And it was the Democrat [SIC] Party,” Webb lamented. “If it wasn’t for Obama and that Obamacare, I would still be working.”

“With Obamacare, I got to retire at age 50 because if it wasn’t for Obamacare, I would have had to work until I was 65 and get on Medicare because health insurance is expensive when you’ve got medical problems,” he continued.

“But you know, the Republican Party, they haven’t done nothing for me, man. Nothing,” he remarked. “So, I’m leaning toward voting for Hillary unless something major comes up.”

Web continues, “I don’t trust the Republicans anymore because they’re wanting to repeal the Obamacare. And I don’t want them to do that, man, because then I’ll have to go to work again. My life’s already planned out.”

“Just a tough decision,” Webb sighed. “I voted for Republicans for 32 years, I’m a charter member of my Tea Party Patriots chapter. I’m also a veteran of the U.S. Army under Reagan, when Reagan was in. That was great when Reagan was in there.”

“Things have changed. So unless the Republicans change with it, I’m probably going to have to swing my vote over toward Hillary.”

Congress Sends Medicare "Doc Fix" Bill To Pres. Obama

Tuesday night, Congress overwhelmingly passed a $214 billion bill to reform the way the Medicare program pays doctors. President Obama congratulated both chambers of Congress on passing the legislation by 392-37 in the House and 92-8 in the Senate, saying in a statement that he will be “proud to sign it into law.”

Passage of this major piece of legislation is regarded by all sides as a “historic move” and the perhaps the “biggest legislative accomplishment of the year” for the 114th Congress, which has so far been crippled by gridlock, mostly with internal factions of the Republican members of Congress.

2016 Political Web Ad Explosion

The 2016 presidential election may become the first election where more campaign advertising dollars are spent for social media and other web ads than for newspaper ads, direct mail, or telemarketing. If predictions are correct, web advertising spending pegged at almost $1 billion will be second after television/cable advertising spending.

In a Reuters report released Tuesday, online political advertising is projected to quadruple by 2016.

Predictions for 2016 show online advertising will consume only 8 percent of media budgets, or $955 million. But the growth is substantially up from $270 million in 2014 and just $14 million in 2010.

The main decision point for social media and other web ads is which voters will see what ads. Candidates have more tools than ever to micro target specific specific type of message specific types of voters.

Web ad targeting works like this: First, partisan data firms, like i360 and Data Trust on the right and Catalist and TargetSmart on the left, compile detailed analytic databases with demographic and geographical information on about 190 million registered voters.

Next, digital targeting firms like DSPolitical, CampaignGrid, and Targeted Victory, relate voter data to commercially available data like Internet tracking histories and real estate and tax records.For example: That, allows a Democratic candidate to display targeted web ads to voters in Dallas who had typed “climate change” into Google or typed “Democrat” in their Facebook profile.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Republicans Plan To Cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

Speaking in the early 2016 primary state of New Hampshire, want-to-be president New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced his intention to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Christie's plan largely follows the Republican Party's standard script to cut and eventually privatize those social programs. Christie's main points include:
  1. Raising full benefit retirement age from 66 to 69 - Christie wants to raise the retirement age to 69. He would gradually implement this change starting in 2022 and increase the retirement age by 2 months each year until it reaches 69. After that it would be indexed to gains in longevity.
  2. Raising early retirement from 62 to 64 - Christie proposes raising the early retirement age at a similar pace - raising it by 2 months per year beginning in 2022 until it reaches 64 from the current level of 62.
  3. Eliminate all Social Security benefits for those with income over $200,000, with a sliding reduction for those who have income between $80,000-$199,999. This would end Social Security as we know it, effectively converting it from a plan of universal social insurance to a welfare program that would be more vulnerable to further cuts. The strength of Social Security rests on a simple principle: Everyone pays in; everyone receives benefits.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hillary Clinton Officially Announces

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially announced her intention to seek the 2016 Democratic nomination for president on Sunday, ending speculation over her plans to pursue the Oval Office.

Clinton announced she is officially seeking the Democratic nomination to become the 45th President of the United States of America, via an email to supporters from top aide John Podesta, as CNBC reported.
The news came via an email to party stalwarts from John Podesta, a top Clinton adviser and a loyalist, who said Clinton would soon embark on a tour in Iowa.
Do not listen to anyone who tells you that partisan gridlock, the rightward-lean of the Democratic party, or Hillary’s centrism add up to there being no difference between political parties or between candidates: it matters very much to the future of this country who the next president will be!

Clinton’s campaign website,, has just gone live with her first campaign ad placed at the top.

Friday, April 10, 2015

2016 Mobile Social Media Campaigns

As Hillary Clinton prepares to officially announce her Presidential campaign on Sunday, and want-to-be-president Republicans rush to announce their presidential campaigns, roughly two out of every three American adults, or 64 percent, own a smartphone, according to a recent report from Pew Research Center.

In the summer of 2014, smartphones and tablets accounted for 60 percent of Americans’ digital (social) media time, according to comScore. Sixty-eight percent of current smartphone owners use their phone to follow along with breaking news events, according to the Pew report. Just over 40% of voters ages 30-49 used their cell phone to follow 2014 election news, up from 15% in 2010.

Though mobile usage is highest among younger Americans, news consumption is quickly catching on even among older smartphone owners, as "four-in-ten smartphone owners ages 65 and older use their phone at least occasionally to keep up with breaking news.

Last summer, 58 percent of American adults owned a smartphone, up from just 35 percent of adults in the spring of 2011. Given how fast the migration to mobile is trending, it’s a safe bet America's digital (social) media time is even larger today, and will be yet larger by November Election Day 2016.

Who Uses What Social Media

Pew Research Center

A survey conducted by Pew Research Center finds Facebook remains by far the most popular social media site.

While Facebook user growth has slowed, the level of user engagement with the platform has increased. Other platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn saw significant user growth over the past year in the proportion of online adults who now use their sites.

The results in this report are based on American adults who use the internet. Other key findings:
While Facebook remains the most popular social media site, its overall growth has slowed and other sites continue to see increases in users.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Civil War Isn't Over

Today marks 150 years since General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his forces to Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army on April 9, 1865.

Yet, conservative southern states of the old confederate south reject ‘Obamacare’ because they don’t need the federal government messing with their states rights.

Of course, conservative southern states of the old confederate south are some of the most dependent on federal government funds in the country.

Mississippi, for example, gets around $3 in subsidies from the federal government for every $1 they pay the federal government in taxes. South Carolina gets $7.87 back for every $1 it sends in. Yes, that means states of the old confederate south are subsidized by those evil, Northern Yankee Aggressors.

Seriously, the questions at the heart of the war still occupy the nation.  “It is easy to proclaim all souls equal in the sight of God,” wrote James Baldwin in 1956 as the Civil Rights Movement took hold in America; “it is hard to make men equal on earth in the sight of men.” Philosophically and theologically, claims of human equality are as old as human civilization. The struggles for genuine equality of rights, of equality before law, and equality of opportunity continues to this day.

The profoundly sacred and legal journey toward equality before the law, and God, is not likely to arrive at a destination, rather its a long, grinding journey of human striving. Equality is inevitably a process of change balanced against individual rights, self-interests, material interests, and a diversity of definitions for “liberty.” The civil war over these issues will never truly be resolved.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Voter Turnout Changes Ferguson Mo

Independent Voter

Voters in the City of Ferguson, Missouri turned out in record numbers for city council elections Tuesday night. Nearly 30 percent of registered voters went to the polls, almost doubling the turnout of the last city election. The increase in turnout resulted in historic changes in the composition of the city council.

Before the elections, Ferguson, which is over two-thirds African-American, had only one black representative on the 6-person city council. After the ballots were counted Tuesday, two black candidates, Ella Jones and Wesley Bell, were elected to two seats formerly held by white members, marking the first time in Ferguson’s history that black members represent half of the city council.

The election comes one month after the Justice Department released a report detailing a broad pattern of racist police activity in the city’s police department, a claim many Ferguson citizens made in the wake of last year’s police shooting of Michael Brown.

To many in the city and in the national media, the Ferguson city elections represented a test as to whether the traumatic events of 2014 could turn voter apathy and drive citizens to the polls. The results of Tuesday’s election answered that test with a resounding call for change in the way the city leadership was comprised.

The new council will now have to navigate how to address the issues raised in the Justice Department’s report — a report that prompted the resignation of the police chief, the city manager, and a municipal judge whose fines on predominantly poor citizens acted as a source of revenue for the city.

Citizen Journalism For Justice And Democrocy

A white South Carolina police officer was arrested and charged with murder Tuesday after a video showed him fatally shooting a fleeing, unarmed black man in the back.

The video shows North Charleston Police Officer Michael T. Slager, 33, firing his service weapon eight times at 50-year-old Walter Scott, who was fleeing the officer after an alleged confrontation on Saturday during a routine traffic stop for a broken tail lamp.

The initial traffic stop itself may have been illegal. South Carolina Code only requires one working tail lamp. Automobiles are not required to meet inspection to a tag renewal. Some have speculated that it was Scott, a black man driving a Mercedez Benz, who drew the officer’s suspicion. Of more than 22,000 traffic stops in 2014 in North Charleston, 16,730 (76%) involved African Americans, much higher ratio than the city's 47 percent black residents. Two-thirds of stops that failed to produce a ticket or arrest involved black drivers.

There would have been no murder charges if a citizen reporter had not used his cell phone to video record North Charleston Officer Michael Slager shooting the 50-year-old unarmed black man, in the back, as many as eight times.

What if there had been no video? What if the incident had just been a situation where another unarmed black man was killed and the police officer wrote in his report, ‘this black man is dangerous,’  ‘he grabbed my taser,’ ‘I was afraid for my life,’ and ‘I had to shoot him to protect my life.’
But the video, taken by a citizen reporter, gives witness to such a police report.

The concept of citizen journalism (also known as "democratic" journalism) is based upon citizens playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information.

The proliferation of smartphones and social media empowers citizen reporters to take video while giving rolling commentary on live events, which they can immediately post and tweet online. Armed with smart video phones, and first-person accounts, citizen journalists are now capturing major news events and spreading the word by posting information on social media networks, blogs, and personal websites.

Citizen journalism has significantly created new opportunities and changed mainstream media in different ways. Citizen journalism has proven itself to be an effective part of news reporting and an asset to journalists and editors. As traditional newsrooms become more constrained by fewer and fewer staff reporters due to wave after wave of budget cuts, the availability of citizen journalist created content is an increasingly important source of news leads for mainstream news organizations.

Not only is citizen journalism effective for its immediacy but also people are telling their stories, where they live. When people who have known poverty, misfortune or injustice first-hand are authors of news, the world represented in the news expands and changes. A white South Carolina police officer arrested and charged with murder because a citizen reporter recorded video of him fatally shooting a fleeing unarmed black man in the back is yet another example of how digital technology can expand democracy.