The OpenNet Initiative ran a series of tests related to Internet access during the recent elections in Nigeria. Though the election was fraught with issues generally, and though certain web sites were inaccessible during key moments of the election period, we found no evidence of tampering with the Internet. We’re in the process of refining our election monitoring capabilities, led by Rafal Rohozinski. We’ve posted a slightly more in-depth statement on the ONI blog.
We’re delighted to welcome anyone blogging the vote today at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School. The Blue Mass Group team have taken us up on it, live and in person, along with others swinging by, which is terrific. Seth Flaxman of Demapples was here until he had class. Anyone and everyone of any political stripe is welcome. Just bring your laptop and we’ll provide the wifi and some things to eat and drink. Our address is 23 Everett Street in Cambridge, on the north side of the Harvard Law School campus. It’s a yellow-frame house. We’re up on the second floor. A map is here.
Each election day makes me rethink a hypothesis from 2004 on Internet & politics. There’s no doubt that more people are getting involved in politics through Internet activism than in previous cycles. The outstanding question, it seems to me, is whether or not Internet is making a difference in the political process. I’m inclined to say it is. And seeing those who are live-blogging the election here makes that case pretty clearly to me, anyway.
Our friends at the Center for Citizens Media and Stanford Law School have released an Election Guide for Bloggers, just in time to be useful.
… to everyone in Massachusetts. What a terrific day it is to have a primary with several contested races: governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state at a minimum, plus some interesting down-ballot races (not for me). It’s a bit cloudy and cool today, but no rain yet. I voted at the Dilboy VFW post in Davis Square, Somerville, for the last time. Just before 9:00 a.m., they’d seen 168 votes, which, as one tiny data point, is apparently great for a primary in that precinct. The races for the nominee for governor and lieutenant governor on the Democratic side are close enough that turnout will decide the winners. Any of the 3 (Gabrieli, Patrick, Reilly) + 3 (Goldberg, Murray, Silbert) could be the nominee by nightfall.
Ward 6 of Somerville, Massachusetts, has been a hot-bed of political activism this Fall. Election day tomorrow involves tough choices. I thought I’d vote out loud, or at least weigh the options out loud.
* A young, progressive woman, Rebekah Gewirtz, with a background in community activism, is challenging 22-year incumbent Jack Connolly for Ward 6 Alderman. Ms. Gewirtz has visited our street more than a dozen times, easily, leaving fliers and ringing everyone’s bell — working incredibly hard. Mr. Connolly has not come by once (at least that I’ve noticed), but he’s sent a great deal of mail to make the case for his candidacy. Gewirtz and Connolly have gone “comparative,” with almost-negative statements about one another (OK, some people would definitely call it negative) in the mail that hits every few days from each of them. Signs in the ward seem about evenly split. Mr. Connolly has served the neighborhood for a very long time, has a local business, and local endorsements, so will be hard to unseat. I give Ms. Gewirtz a great deal of credit for the race she has run — energetic, serious, and tough. No matter what, her candidacy has stirred up a number of issues and has made a long-time incumbent take re-election seriously. (Here’s what Ms. Gewirtz said in response to the Somerville Dog Owners’ Group‘s questionnaire, in case you were wondering. Isn’t the Internet great?)
* For School Committee in Ward 6, there’s a man named Paul Bockelman who has come by our house, running against Jim Thomas, whom I have not met. They are after a seat that the previous incumbent has relinquished. I am voting for Mr. Bockelman, since one of our neighbors brought him by our home, he seemed smart and capable, and his qualifications — as a long-time town manager — seem excellent. In addition to our neighbor, many of the local publications and officials have backed Mr. Bockelman. (I haven’t been able to learn much about his challenger, Mr. Thomas, beyond what his website says.)
* For Alderman-at-Large, we vote for four of the seven candidates (straight-up, not proportional representation, like Cambridge). I’ve heard in particular from Marty Martinez, a challenger with a celebrated background in youth services, and a young attorney, Kim Foster-Hirsch, who has lived in Somerville her whole life and has been articulate in what I’ve read and seen about the challenges facing the City (I couldn’t find a website for her, despite her raising and spending about $15,000, but got a fair amount of mail and found some responses to a questionnaire on affordable housing of hers are here). I’m not certain of my last two votes yet, but Mr. Martinez and Ms. Foster-Hirsch will certainly get two of the four. Denise Provost’s Sierra Club endorsement may sway me in her favor for vote number 3.
(If I were living in neighboring Cambridge, MA, I would vote a number 1 for my friend Brian Murphy and for Ben Lummis, a candidate for School Committee, who is a colleague of the incomparable Chris Gabrieli’s at Mass2020. For other Massachusetts election news, check out Blue Mass. Group and others sure to cover it.)
I am glad that it’s hard work to figure out how to vote tomorrow in Somerville. I find that I’m deciding mostly based on who made the effort to reach out to me in person, by phone (not robo-calls, of which there are 5 on the voice-mail tonight), or via the web with a good web presence (but not exclusively) — in no small part because there are many good candidates from which to choose, a great sign for our local democracy. Huge thanks to all who have put their names on a ballot this year.
This morning, I cast the 108th ballot in a special election for State Senator at the Dilboy VFW Post in Davis Square, Somerville. Despite a sprinkling rain and the low turnout, the streets outside my polling place were crawling with people holding signs — a wonderful sign of a vibrant local democracy. I got a flyer about keep a divestment measure off the November ballot and saw signs for each of the four candidates — Michael Callahan (Governor’s Councilor), Paul Casey (current state rep, who opposes gay marriage, which knocks him out of the running for me), Patricia Jehlen (current state rep), and Joe Mackey (former state rep).
I cast my ballot for Pat Jehlen. Each of the Democratic candidates (yes, so disclosed, I am a Massachusetts Democrat) in this special election strike me as well-qualified. I am voting for Rep. Jehlen primarily because she, or rather her team, has made the effort to connect with me. I have lived in her district, right on the Somerville/Cambridge line, for the last four or five years, and I’ve enjoyed getting her e-mails to constituents; on the one occasion I’ve contacted her staff they’ve been responsive to my issue; and during the past few frantic months of the campaign, a few door-knockers have rung our bell, including a friend from the political world, Christa Kelleher, a professor and long-time political activist. They hung a “get out the vote” flyer on my doorknob last night. None of the other candidates reached out nearly so successfully. I give Rep. Jehlen a lot of credit for doing the blocking-and-tackling of good old fashioned campaigning both during her term as State Rep and as candidate for the State Senate. (And, of course, her record on the issues is good, too. I like in particular her stances on education, health care, and the environment, on which she has been a leader for many years.)
Every Election Day rocks, on some level. This particular election is tinged with the sadness of the death of former State Senator Charles Shannon. What a privilege to be able to choose his successor in a well-contested election.