By Katy Owens Hubler
In a bid to make election information more accessible to a population that spends more and more of its time staring at a smart phone screen, election jurisdictions across the country are creating apps for smart phones that provide voters with essential information about the upcoming election.
These apps do everything from facilitating voter registration to providing personalized sample ballots to allowing absentee voters to track ballots as they’re being processed.
Apps such as those in Connecticut, Indiana and Georgia allow citizens to register to vote via their smart phones. Indiana’s app, IndianaVoters, also allows Hoosiers to look up and get directions to their polling place, find out who’s on the ballot, contact local election officials, and track their absentee ballot.
Rhode Island’s RI VIC app and Kansas’ VoteKansas app both give voters polling place information and directions to the site. Louisiana’s GeauxVote for mobile devices gives voters information on what’s on the ballot, directions to their polling place and detailed election results as they come in.
In addition to giving voters information about their registration status and polling location, Wilson County, Tennessee’s app, built by a an intern with the Election Commission, also contains information on wait times at early voting sites. The recently launched Denver Votes from the Denver Elections Division is an all-in-one app that allows residents to register to vote, view candidate information and key election dates, track their vote-by-mail ballot and also view election results.
Many counties in California are exploring apps as a way to get voter information out more easily and cheaply. An app developed in-house by Sacramento County provides personalized polling place information and sample ballots. Sonoma County and Santa Clara County have apps that allow voters to check their registration status, find their polling place, view their sample ballot and voter information pamphlet, and track a vote-by-mail ballot. The Sonoma County app also has a feature that allows voters to check campaign finance statements for county offices. Alameda County’s Voter Profile app is available in five languages - English, Chinese, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
Although some jurisdictions have used established vendors to help develop the apps, others have used their in-house IT staff or tech-savvy volunteers or interns. An enterprising student from Alaska studying in the lower 48 took it upon himself to develop an app to allow out-of-state voters to quickly and easily request an absentee ballot for the upcoming election.
As more and more citizens use smart phones to access information, you can count on election officials to find more innovative ways to use this technology to keep their voters in the loop!
Katy Owens Hubler is an elections policy specialist at NCSL. Email Katy.