Technology to Fight Voter Suppression

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Still reeling from the sting of voting irregularities in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, people are gearing up for a fight against voter suppression and disenfranchisement in the 2008 election. Technology is playing a big roll this year, getting out the word about voters’ rights and monitoring attempts to steal people’s votes.

Founded in response to the Florida debacle in 2000, the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition has stepped up its online efforts to disseminate the tools to fight voter suppression. It’s website,, has an easy-to-use interface, allowing people to find out the specifics of how to vote in each state. A hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE), an RSS feed, a Facebook group, a Twitter page, and a Spanish-language companion site help concerned citizens stay informed on news and receive updates about voter suppression. And according to the organization’s website, Election Protection has partnered with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to help coordinate information from some 10,000 volunteers monitoring voting irregularities around the country.

A newer effort to help protect the right to vote is the Voter Suppression Wiki, spearheaded by Baratunde Thurston of the blog Like a Wikipedia for voting irregularities, the website is designed to be a user-generated clearinghouse of information and action alerts on voter suppression around the country. There are discussion threads, an index of reported incidents, and an action center where concerned citizens can find out what to do next. A video introducing the site can be seen below.

Though raising awareness about voters’ rights may be the key to a safe election, questions still remain over the security of e-voting machines around the country. One solution that’s gaining legitimacy is the idea of using open-source code in voting machines, Mark Anderson writes for IEEE Spectrum. Electronic voting machines currently in use are criticized as “buggy, easily subverted, and impossible to audit,” according to Anderson. Organizations like the Open Voting Consortium are trying to change that by opening the code to everyone, allowing ordinary citizens to test the software and look for possible vulnerabilities. Champions of the open source movement believe that sharing the code would make the voting machines more secure, and the process of voting more democratic.

 Image by the B’s, licensed under Creative Commons.

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