20 December, 2019

I Will Be Heard

Photo by Mubarak Show on Unsplash

There are two ways to hold onto power. Get more people to support you, or silence those who don't. One way is to deny people their voice by not counting them in the census and by making it harder for them to vote. Lack of internet access is a high-tech gag.

Many marginalized communities lack internet access. The information they get is from corporate controlled TV and radio stations. Corporations decide which areas will get broadband internet and cell service. Communities can be silenced by choking their information flow and their ability to communicate.

How can marginalized communities be provided access to unbiased information? Ready means to take part in the census? Details on elections? To see if they have been purged from the voter rolls? The answer starts with affordable internet access.

This bulletin describes a pilot project to empower a remote, rural community in Alabama through affordable internet access.

Background "Randolph is a rural county in south west Georgia. 61% of the 7,000 residents of the county are African American who voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton.

Mike Malone, an election consultant, proposed closing 7 of the 9 polling places during the 2018 Midterm elections. Critics had said the plan to consolidate polling places in Randolph County was a brazen attempt to suppress the black vote in Georgia's governor race, which pitted former Georgia House minority leader Stacey Abrams, who is black, against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is white." - CNN.

"Malone also raised suspicion because he was on a list of consultants recommended by the secretary of state’s office. He made a campaign contribution to Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for governor, who also is secretary of state and the Georgia’s top elections official. Malone also said at a meeting with angry Randolph County residents that Kemp had told him to look for opportunities to consolidate polling places around the state, but he later walked back the comment." - Washington Post.

Black Voters Matter, a non-profit group along with other statewide and local partners responded quickly to organize the community. The polling centers remained open. "Dozens of people lined up outside the county government building Friday morning before they packed a courtroom and faced the two-person Randolph County Board of Elections. The crowd was made up of folks from all walks of life -- black and white, young and old."

You have to be in the game to win. It's Catch-22. You can find out about the census, polling locations and elections online. How do you do that when you don't have access to the internet?

Moving census and voting services online, while denying people affordable internet access is the ultimate disenfranchisement machine. ("We don't make it easy to vote, we don't count votes - we make the ultimate voter disenfranchisement machine" to paraphrase the BMW commercial).

This StoryMap can be shared with this link

The new divide "Some neighboring counties fare much worse. For example, only about 4 percent of homes and businesses in Baldwin County lack internet access while a stunning 86 percent go without a decent connection just one county over in Hancock County." - Valdos Daily Times

See which communities have internet access, their wealth and what their racial composition here. Can you spot the connection?

Internet access. Darker areas indicate less access to the internet and computers. Racial distribution. Yellow areas are mostly African American.

Pilot project: Leave no voter behind. Black Voters Matter and Democracy Labs are launching a project to provide internet access to a community center in Randolph County, Georgia. Residents will get free access to the internet by WiFi at the facility for education, to find job opportunities, learn about the census and elections.

Satellite based internet access is affordable (approx. $250/month) and can be deployed in days, almost anywhere in America. $3,000 gets a community of 7,000 people like Randolph County a chance to fully participate in democracy!

Take away "Corporations are people too", declared Mitt Romney.

"Citizens United gave corporations the green light to spend unlimited amounts in political campaigns... will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections," - NPR about Chief Justice Robert's ruling.

Corporations own TV and radio stations. They decide where to provide internet and cellular access. Corporations control what people hear and who gets a voice online. Affordable internet access breaks this chokehold and lets remote communities be informed and heard. Learn more here.

Deepak Co-Founder, DemLabs

Please share this bulletin. DemLabs is a SF-based, progressive hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation with free and affordable apps. Donate here to support our work.

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