Twitter the Vote and Other Mobile Innovations in America's Election

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Nov 03, 2008

The 2008 election in America has seen a much greater use of mobile technology than in any election before in this country.  The Obama campaign in particular has been touted as very innovative innovative in its use of using text messages as part of their voter and volunteer engagement, culminating in the unprecendent text message announcement of the vice-presidential pick that went to an estimated million new text subscribers. 

But these are not the only innovations. In the waning days before the election, a number of other efforts stand out that take advantage of mobile phones.  Here are a few:

  • CREDOmobile and the New Organizing Institute are providing polling place locations via txt message. People wondering where their pollin station is can text pp, and their street address and zip code to 69866 (eg: pp 101 market st 94105).  The system will respond with the appropriate polling place for that address, or the number for the Election Protection Coalition if they can’t find a match. The service is powered by Mobile Commons, a mobile vendor in the States focusing on the nonprofit and political market.
  • Twitter Vote Report: A volunteer network of software developers, designers, and other collaborators have launched Twitter Vote Report.  Individual voters can use their cell phones to report on their individual experiences at the polls, using the popular microblogging site Twitter.  Are the new optical scan machines staying up and running in Palm Beach County, Florida? Is failure to bring ID to the polls thwarting first-time voters in Indianapolis? With Twitter Vote Report, voters from all over the country wil report on how the vote is going.  Of course, this informal election monitoring is episodic, and not the same as the systematic monitoring that NGOs around the world do. It crowdsources information from citizens and thus is anectdotal rather than definitive information about the election process, but useful nonetheless.  At individual messages from Twitter will be aggregate into maps and graphs, starting Tuesday (given that 30% of the country has already voted by then why not now?). Voters can also send a message to Twitter Vote Report by: Sending a text message to 66937 beginning with #votereport, calling to (567) 258-8683 (258-VOTE) to leave a message by touch tone keypad, or downloading the Twitter Vote Report iPhone application. 
  • YouTube and Public Television PBS teamed up to Video Your Vote.  People can upload mobile videos to the Video Your Vote channel on YouTube and, of course, to from their mobiles. 
  • The UpTake, a video-based journalism website, and the "Video the Vote" coalition that includes have partnered to document voting throughout November 4th from video-enabled cell phones.  Using Qik, a live-streaming video site, people can stream and upload video from the pollsto document any irregularities. Videos wil get distributed through the Video the Vote site.  The "Vote Chasers" on Qik are here. Both video projects are hampered by the fact that many states do not allow video recording in or near the polling stations so some caution applies for voters and citizen reporters with their mobiles.  The Citizen Media Law Center has a legal guide on what you can do here. On the upside, Qik has just launched its software (albeit in an alpha version for now) for mass media phones such as lower-end Nokias and Ericcson phones, making live mobile streaming far more accessible. 

 Happy voting -- to a more hopeful future in America.

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