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Real-Time, Full-Color Reports of Britons' Voting Woes

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, May 7 2010

Last night's confusing election in the United Kingdom was given an extra dollop of chaos by the fact that some British voters seem to have been turned away from their polling places after hitting the 10pm official deadline, while others weren't able to vote for other reasons. The remarkable thing was how quickly, and how viscerally, people made their troubles known, and in real-time.

Citizen-created video of people's trouble at the polls in places like Sheffield, Manchester, and the student-heavy St. Johns polling station (seen in the video above) went up on YouTube almost instantaneously, and other on-the-ground reports rolled in through things like Twitter and Facebook. Hashtags emerged, with #countmyvote and #votefail seeming to have come out as favorites. Sites like ICouldntVote.com popped up, as well as Facebook groups like "Discrimination against students at St. Johns Ranmoor polling station" -- 3,500 members and counting; reads one comment on the group, "I was deeply disappointed and more than a little aggravated, simply because none of this was in any way my fault." Major news outlets picked up the stories; BBC International, for one, was endlessly playing homemade YouTube clips of British voters' voting troubles all night long. That chain of events, it's worth noting, has driven some of the thinking behind projects like Twitter Vote Report and Ushahidi's various implementations around the world -- that full-color, first-hand documentation of people experiencing troubles engaging in democracy, amplified through all available channels, could, maybe, help propel change towards a saner electoral system.

Below are more videos of people last night experiencing, often with great exasperation, difficulties in getting their votes counted. From Manchester. Note one thwarted voting in the background saying, "This has got to be illegal":

From Ranmoor Station. (Not exactly clear is why the video is titled "Singing Cat." Must be the default.):

And from Hackney, in East London:

Will it do any good in the UK? Unknown, at this point. But the raw materials are there. There's something powerfully compelling about seeing video evidence and real-time personal reports of people frustrated in the course of the simple act of casting a ballot. This could turn out to be a "social media election" after all.

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