Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Democrats Hope To Outorganize Republicans In GOTV Smartphone War

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Monday, November 5 2012

As expected, President Obama's campaign will also rely on a smartphone system to enable volunteers to monitor who's showing up at the polls in battleground states.

NGP VAN, the software company that powers the majority of Democratic political campaigns in the United States, announced the existence of the smartphone feature Monday. Stu Trevelyn, NGP VAN's CEO, said that the Obama campaign is using it, just like the majority of other Democratic campaigns up and down the ballot are expected to. (A spokesman for the Obama campaign did not confirm that at the time that this post was published.)

In fact, that's the touted advantage of the system over the system being used by Mitt Romney's campaign.

Instead of just being limited to being used by volunteers watching the polls for the presidential campaign, NGP VAN's smartphone reporting tool is likely to be used by volunteers on a large number of Democratic campaigns from President Obama's re-election effort on down, meaning that there should be more people updating the database of people who have voted. The system is designed to update the central database every time that the end-user enters the names of five additional voters.

The feature enables campaign volunteers with smartphones trained as pollwatchers to log into a mobile-optimized web site, and to check off in near real-time the names of voters who show up at their polling places. But instead of checking off names, the volunteers will be punching in five-digit codes representing the voters. The idea is that monitoring turnout will enable the campaigns to more efficiently manage their GOTV efforts and stop pestering people who have already voted.

Both techPresident and The Huffington Post reported last week on a similar project being undertaken by Mitt Romney's campaign, called Project Orca. Elections experts said that the practice of having campaign poll watchers reporting who voted is nothing new -- it's the smartphone technology that's relatively new. In 2004, the Republican National Committee armed poll watchers with Palm Pilots.

In 2008, the Obama campaign ran a poll-watching project called Project Houdini. Trevelyan said that the system was powered by an interactive voice response system made by another vendor that melted down under the load and was rendered unusable.

An unnamed "Obama official" downplayed the importance of the poll-monitoring system to Slate's Sasha Issenberg last week.

Asked about Romney Deputy Political Director Dan Centinello's statement that "there's nothing that President Obama himself can do to even come close to what we are putting together here," Trevelyan laughed.

"If you just look at the collaborative features of the Obama campaign, versus what the Romney campaign is working on, actually Romney’s campaign is the one that’s way behind here," he said.

Centinello did not respond to a query about how Project Orca works.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.

GO

tuesday >

Ruck.us Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like Democracy.com

Ruck.us launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new Ruck.us is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and Democracy.com. And strangely enough, Ruck.us seems to want its early users to ask Democracy.com for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.

GO

monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.

GO

The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.

GO

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

More