The Corbett Administration has invoked the specious allegation of “voter intimidation” by the New Black Panthers as a pretext for not turning over documents in Pennsylvania’s voter suppression by voter ID scheme.
In a letter to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Pennsylvania General Counsel James Schultz wrote:
Upon my initial review of your letter, I was optimistic that surely your inquiry marked the long overdue renewal of the Department of Justice’s previously abandoned review of the 2008 voter intimidation case in Philly, a review that would be particularly well-timed in this presidential election year, as I trust Attorney General Holder and the Department of Justice share the Commonwealth’s commitment to ensuring that no violation of the voting rights of Pennsylvanians be tolerated. Unfortunately, my optimism proved unwarranted as I read your letter and learned that you are requesting information “concerning Pennsylvania’s compliance with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”
The minor incident involving three knuckleheads was captured on video on Election Day 2008, It has since been played in an endless loop by Fox News. Unfortunately, there’s no countervailing data to rebut the Big Lie of voter intimidation.
But this time, we’ll be ready for them. I am developing an app, Yo! Philly Votes, that will aggregate and visualize multiple sources of real-time Election Day incident reports. Using software developed by Jon Gosier, we’ll be able to contextualize the sources of reports.
If Yo! Philly Votes had been around in 2008, we would have real-time data that the eyewitness to the incident, Chris Hill,a Republican activist, was at the polling place for an hour and did not see any voters turned away. There were no other reports of voter intimidation. If the source of the incident report had been considered, the bogus story would have remained just that – bogus. Instead, made-for-Fox-News story became a justification for election law changes that have been enacted across the country, including Pennsylvania's restrictive voter ID law.
I am in New York City for Personal Democracy Forum, an annual conference that focuses on the intersection of technology, civic engagement, politics and government. I’m attending as one of nine Tumblr Fellows.
As the chief evangelist for the Cost of Freedom Project, a citizen-led initiative that’s powered by we the people, I’m particularly interested in the “We Government” breakout track. Speakers will present ideas and tips on “the variety of ways the people and their governments are using data to make civic life smarter and more responsive to public needs.”
With the voter suppression schemes in place across the country, voting rights advocates must work harder and smarter to remove barriers to the ballot box and ensure all votes are counted.
During a recent broadcast of “Hour of Power,” Al Sharpton said:
This is not a normal election. We don’t know what we’re dealing with.
That’s true. But we do know that True the Vote will be out in force challenging voters’ eligibility and causing confusion at the polls. They’re crowdsourcing voter suppression; we must crowdsource voter protection.
Yo! Philly Votes will aggregate, visualize and contextualize multiple sources of real-time Election Day incident reports so that problems can be addressed and corrected in real time. We’re leveraging the power of Web 2.0 to fight Voter Suppression 2.0.