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Gerard Bush Headshot

'Battle for Your Ballot'

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We are now entering the last 40 days until the 2012 presidential election and in spite of a series of unforced errors by the Romney campaign, not the least of which is the unfortunate comment by Romney himself in reference to 47 percent of the country (the irony of this secretly taped video being acquired by the grandson of the Republican's piñata, former president Jimmy Carter, is certainly not wasted on the politically attuned) Romney still remains within striking distance of Obama to take the White House. The sliver of undecided voters in key battleground states is ever shrinking as each days passes and any significant reduction in voter turn-out, or much worse, purging of the of the voter rolls, could prove instrumental in deciding this election.

The issue of "voter fraud" has been a political hot button issue and one that only too many conservative lawmakers have been only too happy to push. House Representative Daryl Metcalfe of Pennsylvania for example, a key battle ground state, recently weighed in on his state's newly implemented voter ID law, quoted as saying if someone is "too lazy" to go out and get an appropriate ID, then they deserve to forfeit their right to vote. Representative Metcalfe is not taking into consideration many of the "lazy" people he mentioned are either poor or elderly and many are without any means of transportation or can ill afford to take off work to spend hours at the DMV to attain this newly required voter ID. The actual proven incidents of voter fraud have been minuscule at best, however voters in recent elections have encountered wrongful challenges and intimidation as partisan groups have launched organized efforts in key battleground states and targeted counties.

Members of the conservative poll watcher group "True the Vote" have interfered with voters in past elections by training poll watchers to show up at the polls in minority districts to intimidate voters. Moreover, a recent study conducted by non-partisan organizations Demos and Common Cause labeled "True the Vote" and members of other similar groups as 'Ballot Bullies'. Participants in such groups have engaged in practices such as "hovering over" voters, blocking lines, and engaging in confrontational conversations even though federal law prohibits it.

The problem is, by-and-large, Americans are just now beginning to pay attention to this election and many are left completely unaware of the duplicitous plans that are in place and have been for some time by the radical right to influence this election by any means necessary. One person, one vote is a fundamental and essential component of any democratic society and the very idea that an election will potentially not be decided by the people, but instead decided for the people, by a fringe group, is particularly disturbing. We as American citizens regardless of political affiliation, color or creed must do all that we can as a collective to ensure that everyone's voice is heard and that every vote is cast and counted. The assault on the democratic process in the U.S. as a direct result of voter obstruction and intimidation is what as at real issue here. Obstruction of the vote under the guise of "voter fraud" prevention is what threatens the elective process of America and it is unfortunate that with only 43 days until Election Day many Americans are simply not prepared for what is required of them on voting day.

In addition to issues at the polls, many people are not aware of their rights as employees and what their specific employers policies are as it relates to time off to vote. The elimination of early voting on the Sunday before the election in some counties (widely known as "Super Soul Sundays") only furthers this issue. The national, traditional, media has only begun to scratch the surface of this most prolific issue that will prove to have a tremendous impact on this election. It is conversational, or social media powered by the people who can and will potentially serve as the most effective tool in exposing the issue of voter suppression and intimidation at its root.

In an effort to fight voter suppression, a digital grassroots movement appropriately named "Battle for your Ballot" has launched with a series of PSAs from everyday voters and influential Americans. Mogul and Rush Philanthropic CEO Russell Simmons will kick off the digital series as well as CEO of AdvancED (the nation's largest education non-profit) Dr. Mark Elgart. Influential tweeters from different backgrounds will spread the message via Twitter in an effort to reach the segments of the population most effected by voter suppression tactics. The Twitter handle @BattleBallot will serve as the conductor of messaging to educate the voter to provide them with the information they need in order to not fall victim to voter suppression and intimidation. Voters will be prompted to find the necessary information that pertains to them, in their state, via a mobile friendly website, www.BattleForYourBallot.com. In addition, the hashtag #Battle4YourBallot will aggregate user-generated content showing instances of voter intimidation which they can upload via the mobile website.

On Election Day, despite the best efforts of those seeking to suppress the vote, the people will prevail. Social media is the bullhorn of the actual electorate and in that role plays a crucial part in securing the freedoms of the individual, while simultaneously exposing those who seek to infringe upon these most precious and honored of American rights; the right to vote.

Gerard Bush is the creative director of The brpr Group, the agency spearheading the Battle for Your Ballot initiative.