Thousands of Americans will have a hard time voting this November 6. They will face long lines, broken voting machines, closed polling places, restrictive voter ID laws, and even intentional intimidation. America is no longer a place -- if it ever was -- where we can take the right to vote for granted. The election is shaping up to be a close one. Obstacles to the ballot could even make the difference between who wins and who loses.
That's why hundreds of election law lawyers and poll monitors from the political parties and election protection organizations will be trying to fix things on election day. But there are more than 150,000 polling places in the United States. There are too many sites and too many problems for lawyers and trained poll watchers to catch all, or even most, of the problems. Furthermore, their efforts will be focused on just a few battleground states. Voting is a right and responsibility for all Americans, not just those who live in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and a few other states.
Wouldn't it be great if millions of Americans joined in the effort to improve our democracy by monitor polling places this November?
There's an app for that.
With several other concerned citizens, we've created MyFairElection.com. This platform takes a page from the crowd sourced rating systems of Yelp, Amazon.com, and from a digital effort to monitor African election violence called Ushahidi (Swahili for "Testimony").
Here is how it works. Just go to the site and create an account. On election day, MyFairElection will send you an email message reminding you to vote. After you vote, go to MyFairElection.com and rate your polling place -- one to five stars. Five stars for a smooth and fun process (no lines, got a sticker at the end) and one star for a difficult one (polling place was closed, someone tried to scare you away). Post a comment or a picture if local laws allow it.
If tens of thousands of Americans become citizen poll raters, MyFairElection will be able to generate a "weather map" of electoral conditions all across the United States in real time on election day. For the first time ever, anyone will be able pinpoint -- down to individual polling places -- where it is easy or difficult to vote.
On election day and afterwards, we hope that this ballot transparency will put pressure on election officials to improve the quality of the voting process. The data from MFE should help professional poll watchers identify problem spots that they did not know about. Just as Yelp and Amazon ratings put pressure on restaurant owners and companies to improve their restaurants and products, we hope that electoral transparency exposes and embarrasses the officials who are in charge of broken polling places.
To guarantee the right to vote, many more Americans must take responsibility for fixing our voting system. Through MyFairElection, anyone can take part in this civic effort with just a few minutes of time. It won't work, though, unless tens of thousands of people participate.
So sign up now at myfairelection.com and spread the word.