The tweets were full of rage. As officials began to tally the results of the tight ballots, many voters suspected fraud. After all, there had been allegations of election misconduct before, as well as lost-and-found votes. Trust in government officials didn’t run high. By late in the evening, one opposition party leader came forward, accusing a local election official of “tampering with the results.” Fears of a political backlash rose. Soon there were even suggestions of violence.
The scene wasn’t the site of some Arab Spring-inspired revolution. It was Wisconsin in August 2011. Wisconsin residents had just voted on whether to recall a number of state senators, with the potential to flip the legislative body from Republican to Democratic hands. The vote totals were rolling in from polling places across the state, and I was following the reaction of hundreds of political junkies tweeting about the results using the hashtag #wirecall.