Launched for the 2018 Midterms with Samantha Bee and NBC Election Night coverage.
The midterm elections showed the need to expose voter problems in real time, on election day, in time to do something. We need a new approach to citizen reporting. Not just posts on social media that can get lost or drowned out by trolls. But a streamlined approach to collect, curate and expose what’s going on with the help of the press. Analyzing voting problems from a bird's eye view reveals patterns that are not readily visible at ground level.
Effective citizen reporting is a challenge. How can voters be equipped to easily report voting problems? How can these reports be screened quickly to spot patterns of irregular activity? How can all this be done within a news cycle? SeeSay (See Something, Say Something) draws public and media attention to issues that may otherwise be lost in ‘noise’ or spotted too late to do anything. It accomplished this during the midterms with support from Samantha Bee, Win The Future, Rock The Vote, NBC, OSET Institute, ESRI, Center For Common Ground, Democrats.com, Rogan’s List and Voter Participation Center. Voters requiring urgent or legal help were referred to hotlines managed by Common Cause.
DemLabs designed SeeSay in two weeks with a small team and a tiny budget using readily available software. Voters reported 1,133 problems on Election Day which yielded 623 valid reports. 63 incidents were highlighted as press-worthy and shared with the media. The voting problems dashboard has already had over 249,000 views.
Citizen reporting works by drawing public and media attention to the issues that really matter. SeeSay collected voting problems in this case, but can also be used for other applications as well. Two other projects now use it to collect reports of pollution and hate crimes.
How does SeeSay differ from posting an issue on Social Media? Issues reported through social media are often lost in the ‘noise’ from trolls and don’t get the attention they deserve unless the author has a large following. The press may not notice incidents reported on social media in time. SeeSay provides curated citizen-reported, content on an issue for the public and press.
How does SeeSay relate to existing hotlines for voters get legal help? SeeSay isn’t meant to handle individual voting incidents requiring legal help which are better handled by hotlines. SeeSay is ideal to detect patterns in voting problems in real-time and to bring news leads to the attention of the press.
Can the system scale to handle thousands of simultaneous users? The ESRI ArcGIS software platform used for this project scales well and has been tested in disaster recovery situations like Hurricane Katrina with even more users.
Incidents of police brutality reported through social media draw public attention and get further scrutiny. But there are hundreds of other important issues that don’t get press attention. Traditional news sources like print publications are strapped for resources and stretched thin on how to cover issues that matter to people. Social media is a public forum but often rife with trolls that block urgent issues.
Citizen reporting meets this need. It helps both the public and the press by drawing attention to the issues that really matter with crowdsourced intelligence gathering. SeeSay shows how it can be done.
More media resources here including videos and GIFs.
Collect incidents of voter suppression (Submissions, Twitter, Instagram)
Ability to import and export data from other systems
See Say interfaces with other systems by
(a) manually entering data through the form or
(b) automatically importing and exporting data from other systems in this format
The best way to cope with a large volume of data quickly requires automated alerts. The system will generate alerts when specific conditions are met.
1. Send an email to XYZ when there is a submission that has the words “GUNS” and “VOTING” in a message.
2. Post Tweets that are from (say) Minneapolis that involve voter suppression to the See Say Twitter feed for Minneapolis.
3. Post the photo of a Poll Tape attached to a message to the public drive for that group.
More details of how this is done here.