Seriously, though, I clearly don't know everyone. But I can tell you it's a delightful combination of people who are brand new to the issues, people who've been working on election protection for a year or four, and veterans who've been involved for many years. Last I checked, we had members in 35 states. There's some diversity of age and race, but not as much yet as we'd like. Those are things we're actively working on and have been from the beginning.
One thing that's been really lovely is discovering that I'd been really underestimating how many people have been following election security issues and taking action where they can.
JB: That's inspiring. Especially for those of us who have spent so many years in the trenches and have gotten understandably weary, cynical and short-tempered. I want to say that I am wild about your website. It's very inviting and informational. Can you talk about how you pulled that off?
EL: Thank you! And if I'm not mistaken, you've only seen the 'cover,' the home page. Most of what's there isn't visible until you join. The site is built on a platform called MightyNetworks, which exists for the purpose of supporting the creation and growth of thriving online communities. It's designed to be an alternative to some of those giant social media sites you may have heard of, an alternative that doesn't advertise to you or collect your data.
So on the inside of the site, it's very interactive. There are discussion boards, events, private messaging, recorded trainings to watch, and small groups we call "Circles." We recently set up a Circle for each U.S. state and territory, though some of them don't have members yet.
This work can get so heavy -- because there's so much riding on it -- that I really wanted the site to have an energetic feel to it. I think we've achieved that.
JB: You have! And now I'm motivated to join. It's going to cost me $1.99 to dig deeper. That doesn't seem like it's going to help you live in grand style. So, what's it for and how did you come up with that amount?
EL: While I know people get tremendous value out of becoming Scrutineers, I didn't want money to be an obstacle to folks joining. I also didn't want to leave the doors wide open by making it free, because that could create the problem of bots signing up. I also thought having a small fee would prevent people from joining to harass us, since the payment makes them more traceable if they make trouble. I originally thought we might add a more expensive membership level, but have found this is working fine. Enough members and supporters choose to donate more that we're now doing OK financially. Of course, if we had more funds we could do even more, and hope to be seeing donations increase as a result of some upcoming changes.
JB: Let's talk about the trainings a bit. What can we learn how to do? How does it help? And how does the new reliance on voting by mail affect this crucial election and Scrutineers' approach?
EL: One of the things that's tricky about doing election protection work is that different approaches are needed in different places. In one community, the most important thing to do might be to rent a flatbed truck and some portable toilets and hang out near a polling place with long lines, providing people with the ability to stay in line as long as necessary to vote.
Somewhere else, the most important thing might be to photograph the poll tapes printed out from each voting machine at the end of election night, and compare those figures to the official election results, looking for discrepancies.
And somewhere else, monitoring post-election processes --like signature matching on vote-by-mail ballots and provisional ballots-- might really be key.
And of course, in most places, more than one type of election protection work is needed. We really need thousands of people doing this work all over the country.
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