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First POST: A Data Democracy

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, January 29 2013

The forest and the trees

  • At the Google Political Innovation Summit on Friday, participants — a mix of campaigners from both sides, academics, foundation funders and nonpartisan crusaders for civic participation — fell into two camps: Those that were concerned about the selective nature of campaign turnout efforts, and those that aren't.

    The basic premise is that turnout was less in 2012 than it was in 2008 except for a few key battleground states — the ones where the presidential campaigns put all of their efforts. TechPresident's Micah Sifry put it this way: A few trees are doing okay, but the forest is getting sicker. Participants at the Friday event worried aloud that this targeting might be suppressing turnout in general, motivating people in swing states to tune out the noise and making people in other states believe their votes didn't matter.

    Aaron Strauss, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's targeting director, explains in a graph of turnout by state to illustrate that, yes, this is true: As a percentage of the voting-eligible population, turnout declined less in battleground states.

    Anthea Watson Strong, an event co-organizer and Obama 2012 alum, writes that civic hackers who want to get more people involved generally should reach out to the partisans who worked on campaigns.

    Jason Putorti, a co-founder of recent Causes acquisition Votizen, counters that the focus should be on what people can do with one another, not on top-down efforts coming from some centrally planned initiative.

  • In an upcoming techPresident podcast, we put this question to you and hope you'll answer on Twitter using the hashtag #pdchat: Suppose campaigns are going to get better and better at only targeting the voters they need. What do you do to make politics better? Do you do anything?

Silicon Valley's political awareness

  • With early investments in Google, Facebook and Twitter, prominent venture capitalist Ron Conway made investments and connections that helped to define Silicon Valley's cultural identity. Sarah Stirland reports that as the national gun debate rages on, he's trying to do the same for its political identity, too.

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