PBS and YouTube are encouraging U.S. voters to take something more than a sense of civic duty with them when they head to the polls on Nov. 4: they want them to take video cameras, too.
The Google-owned video site has partnered with PBS for "Video Your Vote," a project that encourages voters to videotape their polling experience and upload it to the Web. Select videos will be shown on Jim Lehrer's The NewsHour on PBS.
"Voters have documented each step of the 2008 election on YouTube and this phenomenon will culminate on November 4 as people head to the polls to determine the forty-fourth President of the United States," Steve Grove, YouTube's head of news and politics, said in a release Wednesday.
"This partnership with PBS, an organization known for offering rich perspectives, will help voters examine all aspects of voting from the registration processes, to reforms, to technology and election administration, to the actual casting of ballots." Grove elaborated in a video interview with blog Beet.tv.
Gadget company Pure Digital Technologies has agreed to give away 1,000 of its Flip Video cameras to participants who agree to make nine short videos for Video Your Vote: three before voting, three at the polls, and three afterward. A few start-ups, like user-contributed news site GroundReport, have jumped on board as well and are also offering free Flip cameras to readers who participate.
YouTube has a separate campaign, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, called the "Democracy Challenge." That's geared more toward aspiring filmmakers rather than voters armed with handheld cameras.
The video-sharing site already has a track record for political influence. In the 2006 mid-term elections, a widely circulated video of then-Senator George Allen using a bizarre racial epithet at a campaign rally made the rounds on YouTube, and according to some critics, it cost him the election.
But be careful: Some states have laws governing cameras at the polls. We don't think "Google said it was O.K." will be adequate defense.