TOPICS > Politics

Voters Document Experience at the Polls on the Web

November 4, 2008 at 6:25 PM EDT
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A spectrum of voting experiences, from first-time thrills to long lines, have been documented by a thousand voters across the country on YouTube's Video Your Vote project, a collaboration with PBS and the NewsHour. Kwame Holman reports on the experiment.

JIM LEHRER: And now a different perspective on voting and sharing the experience through technology. Again, Kwame Holman has our report.

KWAME HOLMAN: Krysta Jones set out today armed with a 5.5-ounce flip video camera to document the voting experience in tightly contested Virginia.

Jones, an Obama supporter, trawled the line that snaked around her polling place, where the wait grew to about two hours by midmorning.

Five hours after taping, Jones sent her first posting to YouTube.

KRYSTA JONES, Video Your Vote: And why did you decide to come out and vote today?

VOTER: Especially being a woman, and as little as less than 200 years ago women didn’t have the right to vote, and so it’s important to get out and vote for your choice for president in any election.

KWAME HOLMAN: Jones is one of 1,000 participants in a first-time joint venture of YouTube and PBS called Video Your Vote, an effort to share online the pleasures and problems of Election Day 2008.

KRYSTA JONES: I really thought it was great how we were able to capture different voters’ experiences.

I mean, you have someone from Sudan that’s a first-time voter. You have a young person that’s a first-time voter. And you have African-Americans, Asian-Americans. And I just think it was just really great to find out more behind those people that we see standing in line and why they chose to participate in this election.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Flip camera you’re holding right now is a powerful tool to document.

Compiling Election Day footage

KWAME HOLMAN: The state-of-the-art video cameras were sent out from PBS headquarters near Washington, D.C., to people who had either applied online or were chosen by more than a dozen voting rights, voter outreach, and educational organizations involved in the Video Your Vote project.

The NewsHour participated by sending 70 cameras to 46 schools in and around the nation's capital.

STEVE GROVE, Head of News and Politics, YouTube: We really wanted to just get like the largest library of Election Day footage in history uploaded to the site. So...

KWAME HOLMAN: Steve Grove, YouTube's political director, explained the goals of the project.

STEVE GROVE: Well, throughout the election, we've seen voters document the campaign trail through video. And they've been uploading those videos to YouTube en masse.

In fact, news and political content is one of the most popular areas on YouTube. And so we sat back and thought, "What is the way that we can actually use this energy and use it for good, really?"

KWAME HOLMAN: Among the posted Election Day videos...

VOTER: Just about 6 a.m...

KWAME HOLMAN: ... Republican Gordon Bloyer took a YouTube camera along to his polling place in Portage, Ind.

VOTER: We're waiting at -- the door has just opened. It's just a little after 6:00. Save America. Vote for McCain.

KWAME HOLMAN: Joyce Henderson, a Democrat, used her Video Your Vote camera in Alexandria, Va.

JOYCE HENDERSON, Video Your vote: I was a part of history in the third grade in 1964 during the civil rights movement. And now that I'm older, more mature, I'm seeing history all over again.

A 'firsthand document' of voting

KWAME HOLMAN: The Lawyers' Committee, a voting rights group, is a partner in the project. From their headquarters in Washington, D.C., they monitored the YouTube postings for video evidence of voting irregularities from around the country.

JONAH GOLDMAN, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: We love our database. We love the numbers of calls. We can say we love to be able to say that right now we have over 60,000 reports into the database.

But there's nothing like that video. There's nothing like that firsthand document to show this is what it's really like to be a voter in the country.

KWAME HOLMAN: McCain supporter Lynn in Woodland Hills, Calif., talked about what voting means to her.

MCCAIN SUPPORTER: I believe in being enabled to pursue the abundance that this country has. It's not -- we suffer from a lack -- an attitude of lack rather than an attitude of abundance.

We do have opportunities here. The people, I don't think, take ownership of those opportunities. They don't take ownership of education. And I firmly believe that you don't give a hand out, you give a hand up.

KWAME HOLMAN: By late today, some 1,300 videos were posted, and the YouTube site had logged nearly 90,000 visits.