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Fixing Our Voting System In The WSJ

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010


There’s a write-up by Jennifer Valentino-DeVries of our 140 Character Conference panel “Fixing Our Voting System One Tweet At A Time” on the Wall Street Journal’s website. She focuses on the theme of our panel, that there are ways social media can be used to increase and protect voter participation.

The use of Twitter as a vote-monitoring tool might have gained the most attention during the dramatic protests in Iran last year, but election experts in the U.S. say there are plenty of ways to use the service to improve voting in this country as well.

A fast-moving service such as Twitter can be the best way to get information about what is going on during elections, because it’s easier to access and doesn’t get tied up the way phone lines can, said California Secretary of State Debra Bowen. She said she has used the service to monitor what is happening in her state during elections, whether it’s a potential election-law problem or something less dire, such as the status of lines. “With 24,000 polling places, somebody is going to oversleep and forget the key” — and Twitter can help get out the message that these inevitable problems shouldn’t discourage people from voting, Ms. Bowen said at a Twitter confab called the 140 Character Conference, which gets its name from the number of characters allowed in tweets.

“This is something we can do without running to the lawyers on election day,” said Nancy Scola, an associate editor at techPresident, a blog that focuses on how campaigns are using the Web. “A lot of problems can be solved by people making noise” and can be resolved by open communication rather than election lawsuits, she said.

But the use of technologies like Twitter to encourage voter participation in the U.S. raises questions because not everyone has access to this type of service, and election watchers who use it are seeing only a small, savvy part of the population. “What does it mean when those of us with certain privileges and skills are online?” asked Andy Carvin, a senior strategist at National Public Radio.

For the complete article, click here.

For the video of our panel, click here.

Photo of WSJ via CAIVP on Flickr.

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