While 2008 is guaranteed to be an election "like no other" in American politics for many other reasons, it will also be the first election where the voters themselves may wind up doing the best job of policing the election process itself. The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and YouTube have teamed up to offer a powerful tool to aid this effort: "Video Your Vote."
In a way, this was almost inevitable. The prevalence of cell phones capable of recording video has grown so fast in the past few years that this will be the first election where if anything hinkey does happen at the polls, there is an extremely good chance that someone watching will pull out a phone and record the video for the world to see. That's a powerful tool, indeed, and may combat fears from both Republicans and Democrats over voting irregularities on Election Day. At least somewhat.
Because now, if you spot (and record on video) something unusual at your polling place, you will have an easy way of uploading it to a place where journalists will have immediate access. The PBS "Video Your Vote" web page encourages everyone to "go out on Election Day and film your voting experience." It then goes on to offer an enticement: "Upload it to our channel, and your video may be featured here, on YouTube, or even as part of NewsHour's Election Day coverage on November 4."
The YouTube "Video Your Vote" channel's page (where you actually upload your video) offers the slogan: "Share your Election Day Experience with the World."
Now, I'm not saying that this is going to lead to a perfect election. And thousands of lawyers from both political parties (as well as from independent groups) are even now preparing to fan out across the country as a check on any mischief. Which also helps.
But PBS and YouTube have provided individual citizens with the ability to quickly get video of any shocking discrepancies directly to the media, where it can be aired on Election Day itself. This, as I said, could turn out to be a very powerful tool indeed. Anyone with a cell phone who has witnessed anything questionable at their local polls in past elections should bookmark these links, just in case.
As Thomas Jefferson once said, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com