Homegrown Varieties

Turnout trends in 2018 election; why last week's Google walkout of over 20,000 employees matters; and more


  • This is civic tech: Here’s a great wrap-up from mySociety on the TICTeC Local (The Impact of Civic Tech) conference that took place in Manchester, England, England, across the Atlantic sea, on Tuesday, while us Yanks were having a little election.

  • Amazon Web Services explains how Article One is using its tools to solve the “voicemail box is full” problem for constituent calls to Congress.

  • New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development has launched a new interactive map showing all the new construction and preservation the city is doing to try to increase affordable housing.

  • Election selection: It looks like 111.9 million people voted in Tuesday’s mid-term elections, according to Michael McDonald, an academic who studies American elections and runs the Election Project. The turnout rate of 47.5% is the highest in 50 years, only topped by 1966’s 48.7%.

  • Now imagine what turnout would look like if the United States actually made it easy for people to vote, with automatic registration, universal early voting, same day voter registration, and the like. The Election Project spreadsheet of estimated state turnout rates for 2018 show that it varied from as low as 39% in Hawaii to 64% in Minnesota to 61% in Michigan, Oregon and Wisconsin. (New York was near the bottom, at barely 41%) While this data is still preliminary, it is telling that OR has automatic voter registration, MN and WI both have same day voter registration; and MN, OR and WI all have early voting.

  • The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University reports that 31% of young people ages 18-29 voted in 2018, up from 21% in 2014, a historic jump. Exit polls suggest that 2/3 voted for Democratic House candidates and 1/3 for Republicans. They also note that the big youth vote likely tipped statewide races in Wisconsin, Nevada and Montana.

  • In an email to supporters, Turbovote reports that of the 6 million people on its list (which grew 5.2 million in this cycle), 68% are millennials or younger.

  • Data viz: The New York Times shows exactly how much partisan voting behavior shifted between 2016 and 2018. While so far 29 House districts switched control from R to D, 313 in all saw a shift, and the average district moved 10 percentage points to the left.

  • Some guy named Sifry writes for The New Republic on how “outsider Democrats” built the blue wave.

  • Life in Facebookistan: Nathan Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity, says the company blocked more than 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts “due to concerns that they were linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency,” which has been previously linked to misinformation efforts aimed at influencing US elections, Sheera Frankel and Mike Isaac report for The New York Times.

  • Kevin Roose of The Times writes that having dodged the election-misinformation bullet, Facebook ought to keep its war room going because junk news, hoaxes, conspiracy theories, are rife on the platform

  • Information disorder: Online disinformation aimed at influencing the election and fostering more polarization is now a home-made American phenomenon, experts tell Craig Timberg and Tony Romm of the Washington Post. Tech companies “have done a good job tracking and blocking foreign origin stuff — content that originates from Russia, Iran or [the Islamic State],” Oxford researcher Phil Howard said. “They have done much less to combat homegrown English language misinformation.”

  • Tech and politics: Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times reminds us that last Thursday’s walkout of more than 20,000 Google employees (far more than organizers projected) to protest management’s history of protecting top employees accused of sexual harassment was quite a big deal, and likely to have major ramifications inside the giant company. The issues that organizers want addressed range far beyond harassment policies, he reports. Claire Stapleton, a YouTube marketing manager who created the internal forum where the walkout was planned, told him, “Our discussions expanded very quickly. What is it that we want the company to be, and what should we do with the power that we very quickly see we are harnessing? Is Google for good? Do we think that technology is toxic? Are we navigating through a host of complex issues online in a positive way?”

  • End times: Just for the fun of it.