Voting Info Is Now Easier to Find
Some of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Microsoft, Facebook and Google, have teamed up with Pew Charitable Trusts to help voters research candidates and successfully cast their ballot on Election Day.
The Voting Information Project (VIP) is a non-partisan effort to distribute information voters need — registration details, polling place locations, issues on the ballot — in the places they’re most likely to look: search engines, news websites and social media platforms.
VIP works like a middleman between difficult-to-navigate government sites and more commonly frequented destinations on the web. Because it’s linked to official elections’ board websites, it has the most up-to-date information possible.
About 500 websites will embed VIP’s tool that allows voters to find their appropriate polling place based on their home address. Additionally, Google and Microsoft/Bing will use VIP data in search results. Facebook is building a polling place locator. AT&T is creating a “Voter Hub” where people can learn about their local campaigns and report delays at polling places. And Foursquare will give people a digital “I Voted” page when they check in at a polling place.
“This information is usually hidden on obscure pages on state election websites,” said David Becker, director of election initiatives at the Pew Center on the States. “We, along with our partners and state election officials, are trying to build a better way for official up-to-date information in places [voters] look for it.”
When asked if the Voter Information Project would be especially helpful given the rise in tougher voter registration laws around the country, Becker said “absolutely.”
“It’s not just changes in laws for voter ID — it’s also changes in polling places,” he added. “This is the first major federal election since redistricting. People are often voting in entirely new congressional districts, with new polling places. It’s important that a tool like VIP be available so people can get the information they need on their smartphone, on Google, Bing and other websites.”
Think you can do better than the official VIP apps? Pew is also inviting independent developers to use VIP’s API in new and innovative ways. Developers have already made a VIP-powered app that makes it easier for deployed military troops to stay connected with elections at home. And another app translates voter registration forms into 35 different languages.
“We’re doing [developer] outreach to make sure they’re aware of VIP’s data and [that] they use it,” said Becker. “Because in many ways it’s a one-stop-shop for official data that comes directly from state election offices.”
Most of VIP’s data for the 2012 election isn’t live yet, but it will be rolling out in mid-to-late October: just in time for Election Day on Nov. 6. And while VIP actually started in 2008, Becker said 2012 will see its “most widespread use yet.”
“[This year] will have the widest geographical scope for VIP yet,” he said. “We’ll have polling place data, statewide candidate info, voter ID deadline information for all 50 states. We’ll have top-to-bottom ballott information on candidates in at least 15 states. We hope in future years to be able to expand that to all 50 states for local races.”
Learn more at VotingInfoProject.org.
What kind of app would you build with VIP’s data?
Thumbnail image courtesy of Flickr, JasonLangheine