ready to register new voters

With the creation of one new page, we open a space for the primary mission…folks can register to vote right here at Occupy the Polls.


Click to open voter registration FORMS
(Register here at Occupy the Polls)

Click to open Voter Registration Info Page
an alternative

Some folks might be uneasy with sign-up forms in such a low rent site; so, the Voter Registration Info Page also has links to The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (USEAC) with enough information to keep me OCCUPY-ed for a while, such as “Contact Your State” (image below) with information about:

  • election websites
  • voter guides
  • registration information and deadlines
  • absentee and early voting dates
  • provisional voting information and polling place hours and locations
USeac
Click image to open US Elections Assistance Commission
interactive tool to find voting info by state.
Posted in Resources, Voter Registration Tagged with: ,

Second Objective – To Inform (cont.)

handingLeaflets
“handing out leaflets” (photo by andrew wales)

These early posts explore ideas behind the project; playing with the purpose so a mission can manifest. A previous post on this subject didn’t reach far enough. Occupy the Polls’ second objective, To Inform, also allows for chances to provide resources, maybe help others to find information themselves about candidates and issues.

After describing this project to a good friend, she said her boyfriend doesn’t vote and offered that he “feels uneducated about issues on the ballots and doesn’t know where to go” to find the information he needs. I was surprised at how early this came up, how clearly it shows potential for this aspect of the project.

photograph of a lovely young lady, gifting a winsome grin
a winsome muse

Trust my favorite hippie chick to have her finger on the pulse.

How much can a handful of links offer? To what extent could a few resources cover a wide range of interests? What will it take to merit a link on this website? A few ticks down my list of things to do is “Find credible, robust sources”. The list item has several sub-topics including this:

   • The Challenge: provide links, listed on page with heading: ‘To find information about local elections and issues in your area’

Back burner: Maybe a separate Page is needed for such resources. How can a large amount of reference sites be organized, made easy to browse? Did you ever see “PageFlakes”? It looked a lot like “dropThings“. Or, how about BlogLines?
Posted in Mission

Second Objective – To Inform

Continuing to describe the objectives of this project. These early posts attempt to define an Occupy the Polls mission.

  1. To engage
  2. To illuminateinform
  3. To activate

Toward the second objective, I’ve assigned myself regular reviews of media and data resources. A welcome task, to be sure; yet, it will call for clear steering, away from ideology. To remain non-partisan, appealing to folks regardless of stripe…this might be a challenge.

in·form (verb; Middle English enforme, informe ‘give form or shape to’, also ‘form the mind of, teach’, from Old French enfourmer, from Latin informare ‘shape, fashion, describe’)
give facts or information; tell:
give an essential or formative principle or quality to:
OED
illustration depicting the Earth with a smaller sphere representing all of Earth's water
Sphere representing all of Earth’s water
(Click image to open the USGS Water Science School report.)

“[The drawing shows] blue spheres representing relative amounts of Earth’s water in comparison to the size of the Earth.”

To inform about voting and voter registration requires no opinion, no ideology or platform. But, where offering reasons to vote, I wonder if it might be an easy slide into opinion. Consider the information found today (linked above), and the image provided there.

Who can take a look at that and not have an opinion?
Posted in Mission Tagged with: ,

First Objective – To Engage

Today, I will begin to describe the objectives of this project.

• To engage
• To illuminate
• To activate

To engage others can mean many things; it already suggests several to me…various tasks that have made the “To Do” list. The fact that you are reading this post could be due to a post in the Facebook Page, a comment at another blog, or a result of someone you know having accepted The Challenge…and now they have invited you along (Welcome!).

I’ve even created a stylishly elaborate card to hand off should conversation open the door…

photograph of hand holding OccupyThePolls.org business card
Yes, that is chocolate in the background…powering the project.

Where the goal is increased voter participation, then the mission—in part—becomes increased voter registration. If someone is not already registered, they are lacking either:

1. information on how to register, or…
2. reasons to do so

As for #2, that will be the main function of this blog…to offer sufficient reasons to vote. (Stay tuned.) As for #1, one can start with The U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s Contact your state online tool.

Photo of voters at voting booths

If someone is already registered, the approach is to increase the likelihood that they actually go to the polls, and—when they do—that they have as much information available as possible. That is an interesting challenge itself. There may be many ways that a site like this could help spread the news. (Holler if you have a hunch.)

For example, since you are reading this, you are likely to have something to say, too. Maybe there you have a comment to share. Maybe there is an online tool that you know about that we might highlight.

Maybe you would write a guest-post for this blog.

Are you registered to vote? If you are registered, then—in order to pull those levers, or check those boxes, or tap that touchscreen—what information about candidates and issues would you like to have?

Plenty of folks have worked on this, obviously. What I am offering is a challenge; what I propose is a viral campaign; a personal invitation to pass along a personal invitation.

Share this message and its mission with someone familiar…and let’s see what happens.

* From thesaurus.com:
dare, provoke, entice, agitate, alert, animate, awaken, call, electrify, enliven, fire up, foment, foster, goad, heat up, incite, inflame, instigate, kindle, move, provoke, rally, rouse, send, spark, spur, stimulate, stir, thrill, turn on, wake up, waken, warm, whet, whip up, work up, buzz, canvass, catechize, challenge, cross-examine, demand, direct, enjoin, examine, give the third degree, go over, grill, hit, hunt for, inquire, institute, interrogate, investigate, needle, pick one’s brains, pop the question, pry into, pump, put the screws to, put through the wringer, query, quiz, request, roast, sweat
Posted in Mission Tagged with: , , ,

Launch Date Moves Up

This project will “launch” with the first “invitation to a challenge” email, sent to a friend…or a small number of friends. The content of that message is simple, compared to making-ready the various online elements; website (front page, specifically), this blog, the FaceBook Page, Twitter…

At times, it seems like “launch” is a long way off. However, it feels like the “launch date” probably moved up a bit, on hearing the President’s speech today.

“…it is important that we have a serious debate about these issues…”
— POTUS

The President Speaking on Economy to the Center for American Progress
Video Posted at C-Span (link) (no ads!)
Full Transcript (link)
Length of speech: over 28 min. (speech begins ~4:50 into video, following introduction)

Posted in Mission Tagged with: ,

Politics – a Special Topic

More and more, I have begun to see politics—as a matter of discussion—as something of a special topic; and, not necessarily one to be avoided. Two recent examples will help me explain.

First, after inviting a friend to look at the project (website, blog, Facebook and Twitter, so far), I was very pleased to learn of her interest in the subject. Much younger than myself, her response went beyond encouragement…it was inviting.

“Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”

Second, on examining historical data available at our government’s website(s), I grew suspicious of what I was seeing. I labored over a draft for my inquiry; reviewing and reading further, appending and editing as best I was able. Then, while looking for an expert to contact, I narrowed my search using some minor criteria and settled for the first person to meet the requirements. Since finding him while scanning a University faculty list, I failed to recognize the name…until seeing it listed in my “Sent” items list, after I had sent the message.

OMG, I can’t believe I just did that.

It turns out that I wrote to quite a noteworthy American economist. To my surprise, the professor responded thoughtfully…and promptly.

So, younger folk may not be as reluctant as I have imagined, and effectively reaching out for advice may be as simple as being genuine and doing one’s homework.
Posted in Stories Tagged with: , , , , ,

Corporate Profit and National Debt

It can’t be this simple…

During recent television coverage of the government shutdown and political skirmish over spending, I heard an intriguing claim made by one commentator. He said that…

during the Eisenhower administration—corporate taxes made up roughly one third of federal revenues, and yet these same taxes now comprise only 11 or 12 percent.

This sounded dubious; but, possibly significant. Deciding to look further, I poked around in online government data tables and did find support for such a claim. Is there a relationship between our national debt and this recent decrease in taxes?

Pulling data from the IRS and U.S. Treasury websites, I created an OpenOffice Calc spreadsheet to compare corporate profits with and created this chart.

CorpProfitAnnDebt
Public Debt data from this this U.S. Treasury document
Corporate Profit data from this IRS.gov document

The two trends looked similar but the scale of the data was different. Unable to find how to apply separate y-axis values in the OpenOffice chart feature, I decided to factor one set of data (multiplying corporate profit by a factor of six) to yield a chart with scaled data.

CorpProfitAnnDebt_scaled

These trends now looked quite similar; but, looks can be deceiving. I then applied the embedded CORREL function to the data, and found a 0.9490 correlation. This seems to be a strong relationship. Surely it is not so simple as to say that—in the United States, between the years of 1960 and 2007…

The greater the corporate profits, the greater the national debt.

Is this comparison of corporate profits with national debt like trying to compare apples and oranges? After all, one set of data is an annual amount whereas the other is cumulative.

Is the correlation found above merely coincidence? If not, this would seem like a significant piece of the current spending-and-debt puzzle…something I might have seen reported before.

What am I missing?
Posted in Data, Issues Tagged with: , ,

Hello Nation

Something stuck inside me when I learned that neither one of my sons was registered to vote. That was over a year ago, and with the 2012 elections approaching I began to wonder…

How can you help someone understand a need to participate in democracy, to appreciate that responsibility of citizenship?

photograph of site author with two adult sons
Author, with non-yet-registered-to-vote sons (Circa 2009)

I thought of the many ways in which public policy affects us. Browsing a few Papers I looked for bits of Common Sense, the whole while copying notes and pasting links. I collected pages of quotes and snippets to pass along. Over time, ideas began to sneak into our chats; long email messages grew even longer.

I probably became quite a nag.

Then, it happened. One of ‘em stepped up and registered to vote . For months, all those charts and links sat with the notes and the quotes in the bottom drawer of my hard drive…until I realized that the whole process had sparked some very sleepy neurons.

I decided to keep digging.

chart showing decline in voter participation over the last fifty years
Reported Voting Rates in Presidential Election Years, by Selected Characteristics: November 1964 to 2008
From the U.S. Census Bureau Historical Time Series Tables

Consider the recent trend in voter turnout (see chart, above). Voter participation has been going down for decades. If our government seems to ignore what many (or most) of us feel is important…could that be due to apathy? Many folks say their vote makes no difference. Others seem content as spectators…but still shout from the cheap seats when they feel government is not working.

Democracy is not just voting for presidents. It is not just electing officials. Our democracy allows actual policy to be decided by ballot, and the effort behind those initiatives can be staggering. What would you like to see change? Who should do the work of government…them or us?

SorbonneEntranceByFlickrUser_Uri_Breitman_200

Have you heard that knock on a door…someone asking “Are you registered to vote?” …maybe hoping to explain an initiative on the upcoming ballot? Ever walked up to a library or supermarket and been asked to sign a petition? Those folks were either volunteers who felt passionately about the government by the people…or paid operatives.

Well, nobody’s paying me. My name is John, and this is me…

knocking on your door.
Posted in Data, Mission, Stories Tagged with: , , , ,