The Internet allows people to not only identify “mistakenly published information,” but to also rapidly tell other people about such “mistakes.” The monopoly on information is over – any agency that attempts to misinform students people about their voting rights can be publicly exposed, and the damage inflicted by their “mistake” can be corrected by the rapid distribution of accurate information.
According to McClatchy on September 24, 2008, there have been several recent reports about college students being provided with “incorrect information” about their voting rights:
Balink issued a statement saying his office had misinterpreted state law and “mistakenly published information that was incorrect.”
Balink’s actions are the latest of several instances in which local election officials, including some in Virginia and South Carolina, have discouraged college students from voting in a year in which legions of students have thrown their energy behind Obama.
… Greenbaum noted that Virginia’s elections board recently revised language on its Internet site that discouraged students from registering after reports of a similar episode at Virginia Tech, in Blacksburg, Va.
The New York Times reported Sept. 8 that a local registrar had issued two releases that incorrectly suggested dire consequences for the university’s students who registered to vote there, including the possibility they no longer could be claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns.
My first reaction to this news was a thought about how online networks of students can counteract these kinds of “mistakes.” For example, this is the link to the New Voters Project that is mentioned in the McClatchy article. This organization is active on Facebook and MySpace, and has collected information about voting rights, links to state election offices, as well as a list of related links.
It isn’t just that the Internet is a great vehicle for distributing information. The Internet promotes a curiosity about information because it provides access to multiple sources of information. The availability of additional information encourages people to investigate information for themselves. For example, I plan to take a closer look at the New Voters Project when I have more time available, and search for additional sources of information to add to this post. It feels incomplete to have only one main source of information and I am sure that other useful resources exist.
update: The Obama/Biden website has a Voter Registration Action Center, with links to information for each state.
The ability to widely distribute information is another layer of encouragement – not only can a variety of information be found, but an Internet user can do something with it. The individual user can find information for themselves, and they can also share what they have found with other people. Without an additional financial cost, an individual can publish what they find and promote their work using a variety of platforms and networks. The open nature and vast potential of the Internet can be a powerful motivator to an individual user to not only search for information, but to participate in the exchange of information.
This is why I believe that traditional voter suppression tactics (which rely on people being ignorant and disconnected from accurate information) will be challenged by online networks of students. The Internet empowers individuals to take meaningful action to protect their rights.
update: Google has a song about it: