November 30, 2011

The Role of Digital Technology in Civic Engagement

ACCORDING TO a recent report, Californians have new tools that give them greater power to govern themselves than ever before.

Technology is the reason. Often with little public notice, most of California's 5,000 local governments are experimenting with technologies to engage the public and improve services. The sophistication of this use of digital technologies for citizen interaction varies and the benefits are wide-ranging.

For instance, you can go online to have the city police in Santa Clarita check on your home while you're on vacation. In Pebble Beach, you can add yourself to the Community Services District's database of local people that need special assistance in the events of an emergency evacuation. You can schedule a visit to your cousin in jail via the Santa Clara County web site or public kiosks. If you need to appear in court or qualify yourself for social services in Nevada County, you can avoid long lines by finding one of the 60 county video cameras set up for direct conferencing with local government.

To read "Hear Us Now? A California Survey of Digital Technology's Role in Civic Engagement and Local Government," click here. To learn more about the October 26 event at Stanford exploring these findings, please click here.

November 29, 2011

True the Vote Movement Causes Concerns

NOT ONLY are Americans divided over the presidential candidates, they appear to be divided over how people should vote for those candidates.

Texas tea partyers have launched an election-monitoring effort designed to weed out voter fraud. Civil rights groups call it an elaborate intimidation scheme targeting minority voters. "They're trying to put in place a solution for a problem that doesn't exist," said Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, adding that voter fraud is uncommon.

Still, the tea party poll watchers point to errors in voter registration rolls as proof that the system is broken. By monitoring elections, they seek to prevent double voting, voter impersonation and ballots cast by illegal residents. Their website claims that "Election fraud attacks the heart of our political system and threatens our rights as citizens. What will you do about it?"

The group has raised $140,000 and has already provided election-monitoring training to tea party groups in 30 states through its "True the Vote" project. They hope to train 1 million people by next year's elections.

True The Vote 2011 from Sondra Martin Hicks on Vimeo.

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November 28, 2011

Egypt's Elections Go Smooth Amid Protests

"Egypt, Egypt!" yelled a 49-year-old nurse after voting for the first time.

People waited in lines that ran hundreds of yards outside polling stations surrounded by police and soldiers in what many Egyptians regarded as the first free elections in decades. Men and women were in separate lines so long authorities extended voting by two hours. Election monitors said the election was mostly smooth.

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