Voter suppression has evolved. The systems used to track and respond to it need to keep pace.
How can voters be empowered to report incidents of voter suppression easily? How can the incidents reported be screened and escalated quickly? How can the data collected be shared as a community resource to reduce future voter suppression?
There are many situations that need a rapid response to dangers that shift suddenly and are widespread.
Hurricanes - Where is it headed? Where should people evacuate?
Wildfires - Where is the greatest danger? When should fire fighters and equipment be assigned?
Virus outbreaks - Where are the most infections? Where should medical supplies be sent?
They all involve getting accurate information from the frontlines quickly. Analyzing it and planning the best response with limited resources. Time is of the essence.
Voter suppression has many similarities to such dangers. It is widespread. It takes different forms. And there are limited resources and time to respond. It demands an easy-to-use, flexible system for the public to report incidents of voter suppression; tools to quickly screen the incidents reported and escalate them to the right (legal, press or community group) resource.
See Something, Say Something (SeeSay) was developed in 2018 to empower voters to quickly report hurdles they face in voting and complements existing hotlines. It is based on ArcGIS Survey123, a widely used app that the federal government and other agencies use to respond to natural disasters, medical emergencies and other dangerous situations. SeeSay2020 was used again in the general election and now SeeSay Georgia is being used in the Senate runoff elections.
See Something, Say Something.
See Say is the brainchild of Andrea Miller, a veteran community organizer and founder of Center For Common Ground. She identified the need for a solution to fight voter suppression by letting voters quickly report incidents and developing a community owned database of incidents that could be used to counter the dark forces preventing people from voting fairly. See Say was developed in three weeks before the 2018 midterms by DemLabs using Survey123. Applying an existing software platform like Survey123 takes less time, money and effort than developing a solution from scratch. Longevity is another benefit as the software platform will exist and continue to be enhanced independent of election cycles. ESRI, the firm behind Survey123 is a fifty year old, multi billion dollar firm with a long history of continued innovation.
Close collaboration between community organizers who best understand the need with technologists open to using existing platforms result in better, robust solutions.
See Say 2020 was supported by NAACP, Reclaim Our Vote, Free Speech For People, The Lincoln Project, Inside Edition with Deborah Norville/Megan Matson and Alyssa Milano. A volunteer team including Julia Bayer, Mike Dagle, Ismael Chivite, Bill Cohen, Ray Ross, Angus Durocher, Ellen Coffey and Lynn Perlmutter refined the system while volunteers with Students for Justice screened submissions. Special credit to Quincey Tickner who managed the @SeeSay2020 Twitter account and Camille French for designing the logo.
Choose the right tool for the job
Compare the pros and cons of different solutions. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to technology. This table compares hotlines with web based solutions to report incidents of voter suppression.
The forces of voter suppression keep coming up with new ways to make it harder for people to vote. Fighting back demands innovation and adopting the best technology available. Data collected on how, where and when votes are being suppressed should be made more accessible so voting rights groups can better plan counter-measures.