Voter suppression continues to threaten participation on Election Day. But communities of color are fighting back and urging people to pledge and vote in November. As vigilante poll watchers prepare to challenge votes in unprecedented numbers, groups like Video the Vote are training everyday people to document what happens—they’ll then find a media partner to broadcast those videos. Meanwhile, more and more social media apps are encouraging people of color and youth to register and pledge to vote. Our community journalist Maegan E. Ortiz highlights some of the best apps on this week’s voting rights roundup. —Aura Bogado
Using Tech to Push Back Against Voter Suppression
September 25 is National Voter Registration Day and National Voter Education Day. With new voters and young voters, especially people of color, positioned to play a critical role in the November presidential election, it’s no wonder that there are attempts all over the country to try to suppress the exercise of that power. Pushing back against efforts to squash the vote acknowledges the differing ways communities of color are using technology to encourage to either register or pledge to get to the polls on November 12. Here is just a sampling of websites, apps and smartphone tools being rolled out to encourage maximum participation within and across various racial and ethnic groups:
Political engagement goes beyond black and white. In the 2008 presidential elections, 34 percent of the total Native American population over age 18 was eligible but not registered to vote. Native Vote, an initiative of the National Congress of American Indians, is a national nonpartisan effort to mobilize the America-Indian and Alaskan-Native vote. The groups are hosting Get Out the Vote trainings across the country, and webinars focusing on using phone-banking and social networking to spread the word within Native communities. On their website, users can register to vote and access a toolkit, including an election observer guide, posters and trivia.
18 Million Rising
Pushing back against model minority stereotypes that often leave out the diverse United States Asian-American population, 18 Million Rising was founded to promote the civic engagement of the approximately 18 million Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States, representing nearly 6 percent of the total population. 18MR wants to change the fact that only 55 percent of Asian-American citizens of voting age are registered to vote—the lowest rate of all demographics—by giving people the opportunity to register to vote on their website. Once registered, users can sign a pledge to vote.
Color of Change
From one simple, user-friendly page, Color of Change is trying to make black history with every vote. On that one page, people can register to vote, get a reminder of reasons to re-register, sign a pledge to vote and track how race is being used in the 2012 race.
Nuestra Elección! / Vote New Mexico
Tapping into Spanish language and bilingual would-be voters is a collaboration among groups like Southwest Organizing Project’s Campaign for a Better New Mexico, New Mexico Vote Matters, Progress New Mexico Education Fund and Presente.org. Nuestra Elección! informs people about voter suppression efforts in New Mexico, and allows users to print a voter registration form to mail in. If you are already a registered voter, filling out a simple online form will get you an e-mail reminder to vote.
Like many of the other resources listed, Voto Latino has a tool to register to vote. Voto Latino is also using a unique Facebook app that provides access to exclusive music, connects with celebrities and shares voting info and election news. They are also reaching out to college campuses with a little friendly competition among various Latino sororities and fraternities.
Rock the Vote
Beyond registering people to vote online, Rock the Vote is putting the power in the hands of individuals by inviting them to become Voter Registration Partners. Being a Partner enables individuals to create customizable voter registration tools on their websites, blogs, Facebook page or even MySpace profile. That way, people can register their readers, friends, family or whoever is part of their defined community. Already registered? You can also use the site to find your local polling place and sign up for election reminders. Rock the Vote also recently launched a #WeWill hashtag as part of their campaign that urges youth to participate at the ballot box despite efforts to stop them. This campaign includes an online sign on pledge.
866 Our Vote
With people of color as the fastest demographic of smartphone adopters, it makes sense to use an app to inform and protect a demographic that is also being targeted for voter suppression. The Election Protection Smartphone App, deployed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National Association of Latino Appointed and Elected Officials Education Fund, New Organizing Institute, Rock the Vote and Verified Voting Foundation provides English and Spanish language resources that allows users to register, verify their registration, look up their polling place, review voting rules and regulations for their state, and see what type of machine they vote on. Want to report a problem or get an answer to a voting-related question? Contact Election Protection via phone or e-mail.
—Maegan E. Ortiz