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For Tea Partiers, A New Tool to Get Out the Vote On the Fly

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, March 12 2012

Tea Party activist group FreedomWorks for America is rolling out mobile voter canvassing and get-out-the-vote tools for supporters, it announced in a recent email.

Using the tool from the conservative-minded firm Political Gravity, FreedomWorks supporters are supposed to be able to generate maps of doors to knock on to find likely Republican voters and identify folks who have cast ballots in three out of the past four Republican primary elections. Users of FreedomWorks' social network for Tea Party activists, Freedom Connector, will be able to access the app for selected campaigns where the organization has made an endorsement. Through the app, users who give their location get lists of nearby voters to contact and maps that trace a canvassing route through a neighborhood.

"It removes the middle man. They don't need us to do anything," said FreedomWorks' chief operating officer, Ryan Hecker. "I think it's transformational actually."

Hecker said he had been testing the tool as part of his work for the senatorial campaign for Ted Cruz in Texas, and that it could also be helpful in Indiana, where FreedomWorks is backing Richard Mourdock in the Republican primary for Senate against incumbent Richard Lugar.

Political Gravity offers its tools exclusively to candidates on the Republican spectrum, said Roy Magno, operations officer at Political Gravity. It mirrors some functionality that folks like NGPVAN have made available to Democrats since 2010, like the ability to direct volunteers to knock on doors on the fly. Just sort of opening up the voter list for anyone to use on a march around their neighborhood, however, is a novel twist to the way the Obama campaign and MoveOn.org offered supporters the ability to place calls for Obama to potential supporters in caucus states, all without interacting with a human on the campaign. NPR spotted another firm that's providing similar tools to evangelical groups as well.

A version of the app already available on the web gives users a list of names and addresses, and three options for each: "Not Home," "Vote" and "Contact," but no script to guide volunteers through a voter contact or options to note the voter's opinion in any detail.

Update: Hecker writes to say that users currently located in Texas, Nebraska or Indiana have access to a full voter contact survey to fill out right now for those Senate races.

An early use of Political Gravity's use was in municipal races in Texas last year, Magno explained. The technology was originally built for businesses to use in the field, for example, to submit medical or sales data, he said, and Political Gravity modified it to work in the "political world."

FreedomWorks isn't the group's only right-leaning client. American Majority Action, another conservative political organization, is a minority partner in Political Gravity, he said.

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