Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why do people in the USA not vote? & how to address this?

Millions of people in the USA who are able to vote do not vote. Why?

I’ve been researching online, and every article seems to have a list of different reasons, plus I've heard some first-hand from people that don't vote that aren't on those lists. So I threw them all together here. This list excludes people who are prevented from voting by law because of a conviction.

The reasons millions of people in the USA who are able to vote but don't include:
  • they don’t have the identification needed by law to register, and they either don’t know how to get that proper ID, or the fees and work hours to get the proper ID gets in the way of obtaining such, or the hassle just doesn’t seem worth it
  • even if they have the identification needed, the hassle of registering to vote doesn’t seem worth it, or they don’t understand how it works
  • the lines to vote are too long before and after work, they can't get off work to vote, or to try to maneuver a long line with children in tow is too difficult.
  • they don’t have transportation to a polling station
  • the hassle of getting an absentee ballot doesn’t seem worth it or they don’t know how to do it
  • they think they will be more likely to be chosen for jury duty if they register to vote (they won't be, however, as juries are drawn from driver's license holders as well)
  • they get sick on election day or have a family emergency
  • they don’t care about politics; they have no motivation to care
  • they don’t like any of their choices
  • they think voting really does not matter
  • bad weather 
I think that all but the last four bullets can be addressed by education, personal assistance and/or absentee ballots. And that should give you hope. And motivation to get involved to change things.

Another thing about this list, as noted by The Guardian: the obstacles to voting disproportionately affected black Americans.

Non-white Americans have typically had much lower turnout rates than white Americans. The Census Bureau asks eligible voters who don’t turn out to vote why they didn’t. Their responses show that white Americans are five times more likely than black Americans to say they didn’t vote simply because they “did not like candidates or campaign issues”. Meanwhile, black voters are more likely than white voters to cite obstacles to voting, such as “inconvenient polling place” or “transportation problems”.

According to the Center for American Progress,, “poll closures and limited voting hours disproportionately affect black voters”. And looking at early voting data, they found that trend was particularly noticeable in North Carolina, where there were 158 fewer early polling places in counties with large black communities and African American voter participation was down 16%.

Another reason, “registration problems”, was chosen by about 7% of eligible black voters and 5% of eligible white voters when explaining why they did not vote in the 2012 presidential election. Voter ID laws, which disproportionately affect black and younger voters according to a report by the Government Accountability Office, are often the reason for this.

So, now what?

Please get involved in efforts that help people register to vote. Contact your local Democratic Party HQ (or the party of your choice), the nearest League of Women Voters, any Black Lives Matter affiliates, the local chapter of the Urban League, etc., to find out how to join a register-to-vote effort. Ask your friends and family if they are registered to vote and, if they aren't, help them do so - many states allow people to register online. Make a goal: that you will, personally, register five new people to vote in 2017. You will register five more in 2018.

Help people get the identification they need to vote if they don't have such. Again, those aforementioned organizations may have such an effort but need more volunteers to help with it.

Look for efforts to help to get people to the polls. There are local elections and voter referendums in 2017 all over the USA, maybe in your city or county. Find out by asking any of your city council representatives (you can email them). Consider taking a vacation day on voting day so you can drive people to their polling stations. Or help people apply for and submit absentee ballots.

Except for filling suddenly vacant seats, the next elections for national Senators and Representatives in November 2018. It is vital that there is a huge voter turnout for these November 2018 elections, and the work has to start NOW for that to happen. Consider taking a vacation day on voting day so you can drive people to their polling stations or help with child care for someone needing to vote. Or sign up with the aforementioned organizations to help people apply for and submit absentee ballots - a great idea for people that have transportation, work or child care issues that might prevent them from being able to vote.

And one last thing, to those that say they don't vote because they don't like the choices: get over yourselves, buttercups. It is the height of white privilege to have the right to vote, the ability to vote, the credentials to vote, the registration to vote, and then not vote. I voted for Bernie in the primary, but damn right I voted for Hillary in November. Because it was far, far more important to try to prevent what's happening now than to be selfish and think non-participation sends a message. Because it doesn't. Not when it comes to voting.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

In Five Weeks

In the last four and a half weeks I’ve:
  • met one-on-one with a representative of a Latina empowerment nonprofit to talk about how to train their clients to be better story tellers regarding their experiences with oppression and harassment, so the stories can be captured and better communicated to the press, city officials, the police, etc. (they aren't being captured currently)

  • met one-on-one with the police’s community outreach person to hear about his trainings on inherent bias in the police force and to talk about outreach to those that aren’t native English speakers

  • attended a “Conozca sus derechos!” workshop at a local cultural center so I can learn how to refer immigrant and Latino community members regarding such

  • gotten in touch with Right Wing Watch about two local activities I think they should know about

  • attended a public meeting by one of my national Senators to learn what he’s doing on a national level and what he wants his constituents to be doing to back him up

  • attended a public meeting by my local state representative to hear what she’s doing in the state capital and to hear what she wants us to be doing to back her up and let our voices be heard

  • offered public testimony at a city council meeting in support of a sanctuary resolution

  • attended the open house of the nearest Islamic mosque to hear Muslims, in their own words, tell me how to be a better ally

  • attended the women’s march

  • posted information about all of the above before it happened to encourage other people in my community to attend and participate as well

  • expanded my resources on my web site about how to combat fake news (I’m one of the only people that has been researching and writing about how misinformation campaigns target government health and NGO development initiatives, and have been doing so since 2005)
I'm tired. What keeps me going? What YOU do. When you post to social media about what you're doing, about what you're outraged about, what you are seeing and experiencing. Please don't stop. 

But I confess I'll be taking a break at some point... 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Who is behind right wing bots?

A friend created a fake Facebook account around lunch time on Friday - yesterday:
  • He used a right wing meme as a profile photo, and had a big USA nationalist cover photo (flag, etc.). 
  • He marked his religion on this fake profile as “Jesus Christ.” 
  • In his profile, he said he is divorced.
  • In his profile, his high school is fake - it's somewhere in Kentucky, and has the name "Christian" in the title
  • He “liked” Fox News, Breitbart, and some “we love Trump” account. 
  • He put up a few status updates, all political in nature.
  • Then he sent friend requests to 5 - 10 people who were posting right wing crap on those pages.
  • He did NOT comment on any pages at all.
24 hours later - around noon time on Saturday:
  • he sent out another 5 -10 friend requests, choosing people out of the comments section of the aforementioned pages, and had about 7 Facebook friends. 
  • he added an implication on his profile that he’s an Army veteran and as having graduated from a fake Christian high school in Kentucky.
By 6 p.m. that evening, he has MORE THAN 100 FRIEND REQUESTS.

I want to note, that as of 6 p.m. Saturday evening:
  • He hasn’t posted on any page other than his own. 
  • He hasn’t engaged with anyone at all except to send about 20 friend requests. 
  • And in the time it took me to type everything you have read up to this point, I have been informed that he had about 10 more friend requests.
Later that same evening: he went through 100 of his friend requests. He said that:
  • Some say they are women, and have flowers and inspirational quotes in their profile. They also each have hundreds, even thousands, of friends. 
  • Some are people that, in their status update, have only posts selling something: knives, ammunition, survival items, etc. 
Some things to consider:
  • On his real profile, the one that uses his real name, location, job, etc., he does comment on public organization's status updates - for instance, on a news organization's facebook page status update.  
  • On his real profile, he rarely gets friend requests - and when he does, they are usually from people he knows. 
So, my conclusion: There are bots - software programs - that do nothing but seeking out right wing people on Facebook. Some of the friend requests are from real people, some are from fake profiles, but most, and maybe all, are a result of bots that has been programmed specifically to find people that lean far right.

But WHO has created these bots?

FYI, this experiment by my friend was inspired by What goes on in a far-right Facebook filter bubble?, an article in Deutsche Welle about two TV reporters for Germany's ZDF broadcaster that created a fake account for an imaginary, and extreme, right wing German, and what happened regarding who reached out to that fake profile on Facebook.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

From gutted to hopeful

I was gutted after the election. Gutted. To see a fascist win the election, and to hear people celebrate taking away people's health care insurance (including their own!), the sell-off of public lands, more guns, taking money away from public schools, closing women's health care clinics, oppressing Black Americans, marginalizing Mexican-Americans, and getting cosier with the current Russian dictator - it was too much to bear. I wasn't despondent because of one man - I was despondent because of more than 60 million voters in the USA - and those that didn't vote but were oh-so-pleased at what was happening, at the misery of others. I was mostly pissed off at white people, because even a majority of university-educated white women voted for this man.

But now?

The women's march - largest day of protests in US history - the refusal by any artist of substance and importance to perform in any way associated with the inauguration, the spontaneous protests regarding the Muslim ban, the massive donations to refugee-support agencies and the ACLU, the incredible activism against DeVos, people spontaneously cleaning off Nazi symbols on a New York subway car, all these people calling their senators and congressmen repeatedly and turning out for city council meetings in record numbers and filling their social media feeds with activism ideas and activities...

No, we didn't stop DeVos, who is profoundly unqualified to be in charge of this nation's education system. But Republican Senators are now exposed for not listening to their constituents. We've scared them - really scared them. Let's keep scaring them.

This is from a dear friend back in Kentucky, someone I've known since the 2nd grade:

"I was never one to care about politics, pay attention to politics, sadly to say 😞 However, I AM PAYING ATTENTION and Trump will make an activist out of me!!! I wish I paid attention sooner."

Dear friend, thank you for your energy. It's people like you, not me, that are going to make the real difference.

I do not lament all this political talk on Facebook. I relish it.

It's all given me hope. And rebellions are built on hope.

Don't be discouraged. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint. We've much work to do before the midterm elections in November 2018. We've got voters to register and non-voters to inspire and districts and states to focus are energies on and turn from red to blue. And we've got human rights to defend.

Also see:

What I'll Be Doing Over the Next Four Years

Nonprofits to Support to Counter the Trump Presidency