Alicia Eler


How we won Maine’s Question 1 vote on Twitter, but lost it in real life

I was on edge last night, using  every social media outlet possible to follow the Question 1 vote in Maine.

It seemed like a sure-bet win for No on Question 1. If it passed, gay marriage in Maine would be repealed.

Not only did Governor John Baldacci completely change his views, coming over to support No On Question 1, but honestly, how could the Right defeat us on Question 1 after we already lost Prop8 in California earlier this year?

I was wrong. This morning I learned that Maine voters repealed their gay marriage law. No on Question 1 lost, 47.23% to 52.77%.

Here are a few snippets showing how I used Twitter to follow discussions about Question 1:

Twitter Hashtag Search (

Maine voters organized on Twitter through hashtags #VoteNoOn1 and #NoOn1. By 8pm CDT last night, Maine was a trending topic on Twitter, as seen on this Trendistic report.

Here are a few thoughtful, liberal-minded quotes I gathered this morning from Twitterers who are upset by the Maine Question 1 results:

  1. Jonathan Moscowitz
    mistercapri RT @djcala RT @justincole: Jesse Ventura on CNN: If you put it up to the vote of the people, we’d have slavery again. #VoteNoOn1
  2. JD
    argylestyle RT @mrpinkoutloud Maine: High on pot. Low on love. #NoOn1 #VoteNoOn1 // high on pot and hate
  3. sea4sky
    sea4sky Why is gay marriage subject to the tyranny of the majority? Isn’t this why James Madison invented the life-tenured fed judiciary? #VoteNoOn1
  4. Manny Lozano
    falsemirror RT @aurosan: If you are conservative and believe in small goverment why do you use the government to control my personal life? #VoteNoOn1
  5. Matt
    mcm0818 Very disappointing news from Maine. Looks like our only hope is repealing DOMA and legalizing gay marriage on the federal level. #VoteNoOn1

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In the meantime, progressives also overran the #VoteYesOn1 and #YesOn1 hashtags, using them to voice their opinions about the election results:

  1. Richard Fortunato
    MoonsetMirror why do the #voteyeson1 people have such hatred as their raison d’etre? Also-How can they fantasize that THEY’RE the victims? #VoteNOon1
  2. Harmony Wu
    harmonywu RT @megmassey: Lobster is also an abomination according to Leviticus. BOYCOTT MAINE LOBSTAH! #shameonmaine #voteyeson1
  3. Masoud
    MasoudTorabi RT @Milpool32 Did you #VoteYesOn1? Then you’re hateful and intolerant! How does gay marriage affect you personally? It DOESN’T! Pricks.

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Here’s a particularly interesting conversation between @mburmy, a conservative, religious man in Wisconsin, and @CoaHT, a self-described “free thought activist” (location not given):

  1. HL
    CoaHT @mburmy Hi, I’m a guy whose family u want to force into a 2nd class so u can still spew hate without getting weird looks. I spoke; now you!
  2. Michael Burmeister
    mburmy @CoaHT Nobody’s forcing you into “2nd class”. And you still have the right to marry-there are lots of women who would LOVE to have you!
  3. HL
    CoaHT @mburmy They said basically the same thing in the 60s – “Fuck you and your family; you have the right to marry someone of your own race.”
  4. HL
    CoaHT RTing this for posterity. @mburmy said why he’s against gay marriage: so he can be anti-gay without criticism.
  5. Michael Burmeister
    mburmy @CoaHT Family? You mean you’ve discovered a way for same-sex couples to reproduce? (You should patent that-you’d be a TRILLIONAIRE!)
  6. Michael Burmeister
    mburmy @CoaHT I’m not “anti-gay”. You deserve the same basic human rights as anyone else. I just don’t see how marriage is a “basic human right”.
  7. HL
    CoaHT @mburmy Loving vs. Virginia – “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man'”
  8. Michael Burmeister
    mburmy @CoaHT Virginia’s constitution defines marriage as “between one man and one woman”. Men can marry any woman, women can marry any man.

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And here’s some straight up conservative quotes from #VoteYesOn1 conservatives, reaffirming the usual false, God/faith-based arguments used to spew hate and bigotry, and undermine LGBT people:

  1. Michael Burmeister
    mburmy 80% reporting, and #VoteYesOn1 is leading 52% to 48%-GOD STILL RUNS THIS SHOW!
  2. Elizabeth Prata
    elizabethprata @Fayeelizibeth Lot’s daughters sinned and they paid for it. Homosexuality is a sin and gays do not qualify for marriage…I hope Yes on 1!

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I’ll continue following these hashtags by leaving a tabs open. In one tab, I have a search for #VoteNoOn1, and in another I have #VoteYesOn1.

I’ve also set-up RSS feeds for the specific Twitter search terms, and dropped them into my Google Reader. This is an easier way to toggle between different feeds.

I’m also using the fantastic Twitter client Hootsuite to organize each of these searches. I created a new tab on my Hootsuite account called “Maine Question 1.” Within this tab, I set-up  columns for each of these Question 1 searches:

  • column one: keyword tracking for #VoteNoOn1, #NoOn1
  • column two: keyword tracking for #VoteYesOn1, #YesOn1;
  • column three: search for Maine
  • column four: search for Question 1
  • column five: keyword tracking for #lgbt, #gaymarriage

Of course, Twitter by no means replaces traditional journalism; I’ve been following the entire Maine story through journalist Rex Wockner and the Bangor Daily News.

My goal with new media observations like these is to marry traditional journalism with new media.

As I write this, I’m still puzzling over how this seemingly sure-fire win on the progressive side lost. And I’m surprised that, even though the left organized much better on social media sites like Twitter and raised more money on the ground than the YesOn1 campaign, NoOn1 still fell short in the final election counts.

Twitter, like any social media platform, is a place where people engage in discussion and share information. It’s thrilling to see the conversations and photo galleries as they unfold in real-time, on the night of the election, and during the morning after.

But if we’re going to change peoples’ minds, is Twitter the place to do it? As with any grassroots organizing campaign, education begins at home, in our local communities and within our local government. If we can change that, maybe we really will have a shot at equal rights for all.

Interested in tracking elections on Twitter and other social media platforms?

This Mashable article gives a nice rundown of how citizens, citizen journalists and journalists alike used Twitter and social media tools to track the Iranian elections.


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