Policing the vote: Twitter edition

You may have heard, but the U.S. is electing a president (and 435 U.S. representatives, and 30-odd senators, along with countless statewide and local officials) Tuesday, Nov. 4.

That's tomorrow, if you live stateside.

Not every state is fully compliant with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) – New York falls into the "not compliant" category – and we're expecting at least some trouble, though hopefully it won't be as widespread as some people think it could be.

If you're in New York, by the way, you're probably using one of those lever machines. If you're not familiar with how they work, watch the video above.

Twitter, via the hashtags standard (more info), has set up some ways to for citizens to police the election.

If you run into minor issues (long lines, people holding signs too close to a polling place entrance), use a #votereport hashtag. Also add a #ZIPcode hashtag to be entered as a location. Check out the votereport aggregator here, including a map of where reports are coming in from.

If you have major troubles – people blocking entrances, not being allowed to vote, not being allowed to fill out a provisional ballot, that sort of thing – get Election Protection involved. You can call them at (866) OUR-VOTE (687-8683). On Twitter, use a #EPxx hashtag, where xx is your two-letter state abbreviation. Throw in a #ZIPcode for good measure. And let #votereport know, too.

What it comes down to is, the more information that's out there, the better. The more people know you plan to exercise your right to vote, the better.

EP has a New York voting FAQ here (Massachusetts - more).

I've also set up some hashtags for local folks. If you're writing about the election in Central New York, use a #votecny hashtag to get into the mix on syracuse.com's Twitter page.

The bottom line is, we're having an election tomorrow. This stuff's important, people.

Attention New Yorkers: Voter registration deadline’s almost here

Audio on the video is not safe for work.

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If you're in New York:

• New registrations must be postmarked by this Friday, October 10.
• New registration walk-in deadline is this Saturday, October 11.
• If you live in Onondaga County and you have moved, you can change your registration address so you have a closer polling place by next Wednesday, October 15 (postmark).

Here are registration forms in English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF), and more Declare Yourself videos featuring celebrities.

CNY Speaks

The local newspaper, The Post-Standard, several months ago appointed Greg Munno to the position of Civic Engagement editor.

His first task was to launch a blog called CNY Speaks.

His second task was to create a series of public forums to discover what people felt would help improve downtown.

The first of the three forums was Thursday evening. It drew about 90 people. The goal was to get them talking about the results of a survey (PDF) that outlined some of the issues people had with downtown.

We were distributed at registration into tables. I sat with two real estate agents, an employee at an architecture firm, owners of two downtown businesses, a reporter (there as a citizen), someone who has had trouble opening a downtown business, and a retiree who is an advocate for various causes.

Also in the crowd were other reporters-as-citizens, developers, at least one person from Adapt CNY, and a bunch of other people who had bright ideas about what we could do with downtown.

Not in the crowd: Mayor Matt Driscoll, any member of the Syracuse Common Council, or people with overarching negative ideas about downtown.

For me, while the large attendance was a big success, those absences were a big problem.

There's a second go at the forum today (Sunday) at 2 p.m., and a third Tuesday at 6 p.m. I'm going today, and if there's a significantly different crowd with different ideas today than there was Thursday, I'll also go Tuesday.

My concern, though, is that we're in danger of ending up with a lot of good ideas, a great series in the newspaper, and nothing in the way of implementation.

For me, what could vastly improve downtown is a change in public perception. Sure, there are vacant store fronts, and more businesses downtown would certainly bring people. So would affordable housing – I'm sorry, but $1,250-per-month lofts don't fly when you're trying to attract young professionals in a market where they're lucky to make $30,000 a year.

But let's face it. One of the things people are most concerned about is safety, because they read about a lot of crime. They don't read far enough into the story to understand that most of that crime happens when drunk people are wandering the streets between 1 and 4 a.m. I'm not exactly an imposing figure, and I walked from Armory Square to the Hotel Syracuse (10 blocks or so) with a laptop on my shoulder to get to the forum. I never questioned my safety.

Could downtown use more people? Absolutely. Can we do it without public officials and an action plan? Absolutely not.

Who will step up? They might have my vote in 2009 local races.

Obama’s big text message flop

When Barack Obama announced a couple of weeks ago that he would make sure his supporters were among the first to know when he selected a running mate, my initial thought was, hey, cool, someone's using available technology well.

Eventually, curiosity caught up with me, and yesterday I signed up to get my text message.

The idea here was that anyone who signed up on Obama's list would be among the first to know his choice. To make people feel like they were on the inside of the campaign.

Ha.

Obama's choice started leaking around midnight Eastern last night, and the text message came at 3:13 a.m.

Even on the west coast, you had to be up pretty late to be among the first to know, and if you were on the east coast, you actually could have found out more than an hour and a half before you got your text message.

By the time I woke up (and I get up pretty early), it didn't matter if I checked my text messages, The NY Times, CNN, WaPo, LAT or the Trib.

In short, by electing to cap the late-night leaks with a 3 a.m. message, Obama's campaign effectively skipped letting people on the inside.

Yes, we knew that his choice would show up on Web sites of major news outlets within minutes of the text message being sent out, but the fact that some people are going to learn this in the newspaper (I'm guessing the west coast papers managed to squeeze it into their print editions) around the same time people are getting their text messages, really defeats the purpose.

What should have happened is that a text message should have arrived at 11 a.m., or 2 p.m., or 5 p.m., when people are in the middle of things – going about their days. If everyone stops what they're doing to talk about the text message they just got, that's a measure of success for something like this.

Race and the presidency


from PostSecret 3 Aug 2008

I'm not going to pretend to be uber-qualified to write about race, and I'm not going to go link-crazy here, but race is starting to come out as factor in the presidential race right now, and I feel the need to comment. I'm a white male who works in a mostly white office, so most of the racism I come across is in the media.

People told me during the primary season that they thought if Barack Obama was the Democratic nominee, which it appears he will be (and if he's not, he'll have a lot of explaining to do, since he's campaigning; same with John McCain, by the way – neither of these guys is official yet), people would vote for McCain just because of Obama's race.

Thing is, the people who would vote for president based on race would also vote for president based on gender. It would have been six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other on that count.

The latest polls are out, and guess what?

• People think race is going to be a factor
• Obama is leading McCain by about six points
• Add in Ralph Nader and Bob Barr, and Obama is up by 13 points (five points to Nader, two to Barr)

What does this say to me? Either:

(a) There's a bit of third-person effect going on here. That is, "race doesn't matter to me, but I bet it does to everyone else." Or,

(b) Race does matter, but it's not to whom you think. The people who want an old white guy in office aren't necessarily Republicans or even Conservatives. They don't care which old white guy they put in office, so long as it's an old white guy.

We knew that some McCain voters could defect to Barr. But did anybody honestly think Nader would be sucking votes from McCain?

What I do know about racism is this. If Obama gets elected, there will be extra pressure on him. If he has a lousy presidency, a large group of people who thought they were taking a "very open-minded risk" voting for him will cite it as an example that a black man can't run the country. And if he does well, there will be a group of people who will pat him on the head (proverbially, anyway) and say, "Good boy. You proved us wrong."

None of that makes me happy. It's just the way I see it.

Personally, I'm going to vote for the person this year I think will do the best job in the White House, whether it's one of the four men mentioned here, Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney, or one of the other dozens of candidates who will no doubt join the race between now and November.

Miller High Life TV commercials: The class angle

I'm not a big fan of Miller beer. To tell the truth, I'm not a big fan of many mass-produced beers.

But from a class standpoint, I really like the ad campaign Miller has been running.

If you've not seen the campaign, it features a Miller delivery guy systematically removing the beer from the shelves of institutions he deems unworthy of selling an "everyman's" beer.

The reasoning? If you're a restaurant charging $11.50 for a hamburger, or a club charging people $20 for the privilege of coming in to buy a drink, you don't deserve to be selling a beer so good and with such a draw that the average person can't afford the other things you sell.

Another ad shows the delivery guy busting into a luxury box at a baseball game, where people in suits don't even know what inning it is. He deprives them of their Miller beer and delivers it to the true fans, those with foam fingers sitting in the bleachers.

Check out more of the ads here.