The 2018 midterm elections were always going to be a referendum on the state of America, since they’ve arrived halfway through the Trump presidency. Late-night TV has coped with the last two years of horrifying news in different ways: John Oliver trolls the Trump White House and its supporters with elaborate stunts; Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert ditch jokes in favor of impassioned monologues.
And a few months ago, Full Frontal host Samantha Bee released an app called This Is Not A Game: The Game, which married HQ Trivia-esque gameplay with political knowledge, for jackpots ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. In the lead-up to this year’s climactic midterms, however, Bee and the show have partnered with The Democracy Labs — a project founded by Silicon Valley technologist Deepak Puri — to turn the app into something more: a portal for Americans to report voter suppression. Today, Bee and the show announced that players on the app have now reported more than 800 total instances of voter suppression nationwide.
Through a section of the app dedicated to “Challenges,” users can share any voter suppression they’ve witnessed or experienced (along with other things — like posting a selfie with your “I Voted” sticker) From the data came a striking map, which highlighted geotagged instances of alleged voter suppression, which The Democracy Labs say they’ve verified. A tweet earlier today included a map and a running tally of submitted reports. According to This Is Not A Game product manager Adam Werbach, that number has doubled over the course of Election Day.
#ThisIsNotAGame allows users to report anything that may be blocking people from voting. We've had over 400 verified reports of voter suppression, intimidation and other ballot issues. This is our glowing, growing map of issues. #ElectionDay pic.twitter.com/TmikznUqNQ— Full Frontal (@FullFrontalSamB) November 6, 2018
“It turns out that the game players that we have have been all over the country and sending us these reports,” Werbach tells The Verge. Most of the map, he said, is populated by Bee’s players. “And then a lot of volunteers [from The Democracy Labs] have sorted through those to try to find which ones are high priority and make sure they get reported to the local authorities and to national efforts to make sure that voter suppression doesn’t happen.”
Even so, Werbach says that they’ve already seen “a disturbing trend of of people who are at the polls — sort of vigilantes trying to scare people away from [being] there.” And for Werbach, seeing voter suppression overlaid on a map of America was disturbing. “Your heart kind of drops because you hear reports of it, but to actually see it is a whole different thing,” he says.
Bee came up with the idea for This Is Not A Game after doing a segment on gamification last March, which is how she and Werbach met. He says it took them a year to build, although he doesn’t know what the future of the project is just yet. And as far as what they’re doing with the reports they’ve collected, “I think we’ll find out tomorrow night [on the show],” Werbach says.