New Tools in the Battle For Fair Elections: Cell Phone Cameras

| Thu Nov. 2, 2006 10:07 PM EST

Aiming to get around the sort of he-said-she-said disputes over election irregularities that plagued Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004—disputes that may well have decided the fate of the last two presidential elections—two different groups will use the text and video capabilities of cell phones this year to monitor the polls.

Video the Vote, a project of independent filmmaker Jim Ennis and elections activist James Rucker, began six weeks ago with the launch of a popular video by the same name on YouTube (see below). Drawing more than 100,000 page views, the film ended with a pitch to participate in a project that combines citizen journalism with something akin to a flash mob. The 670 people who have signed on as volunteers will receive text messages on election day and will rush to polling places where irregularities have been reported and document them with digital video cameras. They will then download the footage and make it available to the public and the media. Rucker says the project was motivated by a perceived lack of media coverage of election irregularities in years past. "It's all for making sure these stories actually happen," he told me, "instead of kind of happening a few days later."

A similar effort was launched today by Veeker (as in video + peek), a web startup that aims to be the YouTube of cell phone videos. Founded by Silicon Valley heavyweights Roger Raderman, creator of iFilm, and Alex Kelly, the former head of new media for 21st Century Fox, Veeker is promoting itself with the activist set through the website veekthevote.com. Cell phone users can email their videos into a searchable database on the site that will serve as a source for election footage. The site has partnered with Youth Noise, a networking group for socially minded young people with 115,000 members, some of whom have volunteered to film any irregularities at the polls with their phones. The goal, says spokesperson Vijay Chattha, is to "get more of a realistic picture of what's happing out there."