Voter Activist Hopes to Stop More ‘New Black Panther’ Incidents With Poll-Watching App
Faye Anderson is convinced that if Philadelphians had a web-based election-monitoring program during the 2008 elections, we could have avoided the New Black Panther controversy involving allegations of voter intimidation in Philly. (The controversy still exists in newsprint and in conservative emails to this day.) With her new web application, tentatively titled Yo! Philly Votes, Anderson hopes to do just that: prevent similar instances from getting out of control by putting the media in voters’ hands and aggregating all Election Day incidents in one digital spot.
“If Yo! Philly Votes had been around [in 2008], then we would have seen that there were no other reports of [voter intimidation],” she says. “If it had been this federal case of voter intimidation that Republicans and conservatives have tried to make it out to be, wouldn’t there have been other reports from that polling place, other than the one Republican poll watcher?”
During the incident in question, members of the New Black Panther Party (unaffiliated with the ’60s radicals) stood outside a polling place at 12th Street and Fairmount Avenue—one yielding a stick. This was caught on tape by a Republican operative. Allegations of voter intimidation were later handled by the DOJ. After a long legal process, it was found that no voter intimidation occurred at the site, and that the DOJ handled the case properly, in spite of some conservatives alleging Attorney General Eric Holder did not press charges due to racism. Since the incident, Holder has been a target of many conservative witch hunts.
The New Black Panther story has become justification for many voter-suppressing laws around the country. The DOJ had previously asked Pennsylvania officials for information relating to their assertion that 99 percent of Pennsylvania voters would not be affected by the new Voter-ID law. Pennsylvania responded with comments about the New Black Panther incident.
“All we have now is their [the GOP’s] version of what happened” because of a lack of easy-to-access mobile applications and citizen-journalists on the scene, says Anderson.
The application itself, which she is working on with software developer John Gosier, will look like an interactive map that will show where incidents have taken place. Additionally, there will be a search box using a hash tag or Zip code for each polling place. It will aggregate local Twitter, Flickr, Four Square, You Tube and other social media sites with local users around the web.
“The bottom line is if you see something, say something. This is a platform that will aggregate those reports so the problem can be addressed in real time,” says Anderson, a member of the Voter ID Coalition and volunteer for the Committee of Seventy.
Additionally, Anderson hopes voters use Yo! Philly Votes to understand the credibility of the person filing the report. “Let’s say there’s a tweet by John Doe [alleging voter intimidation],” she explains, “Then the app will show that user’s profile. So if John Doe has never tweeted before his tweets on voter intimidation, it will go to the credibility of that report.”
Republicans around the country are also preparing for Election Day. True the Vote, a conservative voting group, is currently building a poll-watcher campaign around the country to address voter fraud during the 2012 elections. True the Vote was recently in the headlines due to its participation in the Florida “voter purge.”
Anderson says she hopes Yo! Philly Votes will watch the watchers and those, she believes are “coming here to create mischief”—be it inside or outside the polling place.
“This is a citizen-led volunteer effort,” she continues. “We will target those polling places where there is likely to be problems. And we are going to send a message to True the Vote: that somebody will be watching you, too.”