Josh Harkinson

Josh Harkinson

Reporter

Born in Texas and based in San Francisco, Josh covers tech, labor, drug policy, and the environment. PGP public key.

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Will this be the dirtiest election ever? Most people won't go to the polls until tomorrow, but reports of trickery aimed at would-be voters have have piled up over the past few days, angering and worrying civil rights advocates.

The latest bout of hand-wringing started on Friday, when Ohio's Republican Secretary of State, John Husted, announced a last minute-directive that could end up determining the presidential election. Husted put the burden on voters to correctly record the form of ID they gave to election officials when casting provisional ballots—recording the wrong information could invalidate the ballot. Some polls show a tight race in this crucial swing state.

Judging from recent experience, close presidential elections tend to coincide with problems at the polls. Remember the 2000 election's butterfly ballots and dangling chads? Or, four years later, the 10-hour lines in Knox County, Ohio? Though civil rights groups worry that history will again repeat itself this year, at least one thing will be different: what's in our pockets. Anybody with a smartphone can now shoot video of polling irregularities and upload it to the internet. But someone must still curate all of this citizen journalism, and that's where a group called Video the Vote comes in.

A member of a network of voting rights groups known as the Election Protection Coalition, Video the Vote wants anybody who notices voting problems to document the situation and bring the footage to its attention. "In an era of partisan voter purges, onerous ID requirements, and organized intimidation, it's not enough for citizens to just cast their ballots," says Matt Pascarella, Video the Vote's campaign director. In addition to collecting citizen uploads, he'll field a national network of his own videographers to target swing-state hotspots.

You might end up seeing some of these videos on the Mother Jones website; I'll be embedded with Video the Vote office during much of Election Day. In addition, Mother Jones is encouraging readers to report any poll problems, voter intimidation, and vote suppression attempts you might encounter via our short Report Your Voting Problem form (available below). We're tracking problems at our interactive map and mega-guide to election problems.

For more on how to work with Video the Vote, check out the group's promotional video:

You can help Mother Jones track voter suppression and poll problems around the country—report your problem using this short form:

Is Washington State the New California?

The old truism, "As goes California, so goes the nation," might be due for a rewrite. From today's San Francisco Chronicle:

If you believe the polls…then Washington voters are poised to legalize two things Californians haven't: same-sex marriage and marijuana.

That's right, the home of the Castro and the Emerald Triangle is about to get upstaged by a state best known for its banana slugs. What happened?

Well, first off, all the crazy hippies got priced out of San Francisco and opened up yoga retreats, third-wave espresso shops, and organic farms in and around Seattle and Portland. I exaggerate only slightly.

Second, and more important, Washington state has fewer churchgoers than California, and especially fewer conservative ones. When the Catholic Church supported Prop. 8, California's gay marriage ban, it could count on its message being heard by the 29 percent of Californians who are Catholic. Catholics account for less than 12 percent of Washingtonians.

And then there's the reefer. California has lots of it, perhaps a surfeit. In 2008, majorities of voters in Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties, the so-called Emerald Triangle, rejected Prop 19, not because they didn't like tokers, but because they worried that legal weed would decrease margins for the area's pot farmers.

In the case of both ballot issues, Washington has learned from California's mistakes. Gay-rights advocates have framed marriage as a universal family value rather than just a civil right. And pot activists have neutralized opposition from law enforcement by including a provision that bans driving with high blood levels of THC, a rule absent from California's Prop. 19.

So has Washington stolen California's thunder? Maybe, but at least it's not raining down here.

Translation: "This election, if you've got it, show it."

Early this month, a federal judge partially overturned Pennsylvania's voter ID law, ruling that the state couldn't require voters to show photo identification at the polls until after the 2012 election. But the ruling has not stopped the state from running ads suggesting otherwise—ads that have disproportionately targeted urban and minority communities that tend to vote for Democrats.

In English, the billboard pictured above reads: "This election, if you've got it, show it." It is one of 58 billboards erected by Pennsylvania's Republican-led Department of State, mostly in Democratic-leaning Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Though Latinos make up only 6 percent of the state's population, about 20 percent of the billboards are in Spanish. Similar Spanish-language ads appear on public buses.

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