The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it, and the glow from that fire can truly light the world
~ Thomas Jefferson
I am a firm believer that my rights and freedoms as an American come with a cost. Vigilance, activism, and awareness are the price required for my freedoms and rights. As the average American wages internal battles dealing with a mixture of outrage, apathy, and a sense of disenfranchisement, I find myself at an interesting crossroads. I see the core beauty that makes America incredible, under attack. Across the political spectrum we can’t all agree on exactly what is happening, but most agree there is something destructive occurring. As a result, many Americans are becoming motivated. We’ve seen a record spike in voting turnout and a polarized voting populace eager to share information. Yet, astonishingly, despite the record numbers getting involved and voting, most still don’t feel like their vote counts, don’t understand our clumsy or broken election process, or are voting largely based on misinformation. As a result of these observations I made the decision to take action.
I believe I can make a difference. I believe I have the power to share knowledge. I believe I can help shape America’s future. I believe I can help improve the voting process, and I believe I have a set of tools at my disposal to do this — tools previous generations did not have. I started this post with Jefferson’s quote because it really strikes me as accurate. We have an amazing system, one that has evolved with time and fundamentally is built upon the idea that we – the informed and active citizenry – are responsible for shaping the future of our nation.
Information is essential if we are to have an enlightened government. The more information available to the populace and the better educated the populace, the closer the people are to forming a working democracy. On the flip side, the more information is controlled and the less educated the populace, the more likely the government will slide into tyranny, monarchy, or dictatorship. To that end, I believe it is the job of every American to not only educate themselves, but to strive to pass knowledge on to their fellow citizens.
If you’re a regular reader you may recall the e-mails I published from my conversation with an AZ Elections Department Official who answered a number of my questions and passed along some excellent information. Eager to do as much as I could, I accepted the task of trying to educate as many people as possible about the Primary Elections process. I helped a friend setup and moderate several social networking outlets. We brainstormed on the approach we wanted to take, what information voters might need, and the viability of the idea. Our chosen medium was Facebook, but we did not know if we would have an impact or get much of a response. The answer was a resounding and somewhat surprising “Yes”! That answer was acompanied by amazing insight into the power at our fingertips as a result of the digital revolution.
Our first project was a global Facebook group – “I’m Voting In the Primaries!” – The group was designed to be a non-partisan way for Facebook users to declare their investment in the voting process while providing links to the candidates, basic voting information, updated information about the primaries, and as a forum to ask questions. At it’s peak, right before Super Tuesday, the group grew to 760 members. Impressive growth for something started less than a month previously. The group had 48 posted comments, 10 posted items, and 8 discussion topics. While not quite as impressive as the 1.5 million members in the “1 ,000,000 Strong for Steven T. Colbert,” it was an amazing opportunity for us to educate and have a positive influence on hundreds of people.
The second project was a Facebook event for the Arizona Primary which occured on February 5th. Titled “Arizona Presidential Primary Elections,” the event profile had links to every major county’s elections department website as well as basic information on Arizona’s primary system and a reminder that Arizona state law prohibits independents from voting in the primaries. Created less than three weeks before the Primary, 578 people replied as attending, while 120 people replied as possible attendees. To me, this is proof of the power of new forms of communication. It is proof that a small group of individuals armed with modern technology can make a difference.
Eager to push ourselves, three of us decided, in addition to our virtual endeavors, to reach out physically to our neighbors. Following our bi-partisan approach we spent 2 hours on the Saturday before Super Tuesday walking a local neighborhood reminding people to vote, answering questions, and encouraging prospective voters to spend time researching their cause via the New Media. If nothing else, we encouraged thought. The richest reward for me came as we discussed the candidates and political system with others. We were exposed to their ideologies, their concerns, and their hopes. I found our contacts to be amazingly representative of the dialog occurring across the US. Some had misinformation…Most were passionate, but doubted their vote would make a difference/count…Some had adopted a wait-and-see mentality…Others were confident and eager to defend their candidates… while too many felt completely disenfranchised by the process and had given up.
Now, regardless of how my candidates do – win or loose – I know I’ve made a difference and that I’ve done at least part of my duty to my country and am earning my rights, my liberty and the prosperity that go along with it.
I’ve also learned an amazing lesson about the power of social networks and the Internet as a grassroots tool. It really is possible to change the World. Even more exciting is the realization that with each new invention and project it becomes even easier to do.