November 02, 2018 07:03 PM
As the final push begins to get voters to the polls Tuesday, there’s a new high-tech approach that’s turning heads.
Voters have become accustomed to getting calls and mailings from campaigns trying to sway their votes. But a new app you can download for free can reveal who in your phone’s contacts has voted in past elections, and who has not.
Voters’ specific choices in the voting booth are private. However, Minnesota law requires that voter participation records be made public when being used for elections.
The app Vote With Me was created by the group The New Data Project. With a user’s permission, it cross-references the contacts in a person’s phone with the contacts on that phone and shows whether the individual voted in past elections.
"We cannot emphasize strongly enough that this data is already public. We are simply making it more accessible to everyday voters,” a spokesperson for The New Data Project wrote to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
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Minnesota doesn’t record a political party when people register to vote. But for voters in states that do, party affiliation is also displayed. The app also indicates which of your contacts is positioned to vote in a close race. You can contact people through the app to encourage them to vote.
"It's giving you the data at your fingertips,” Bloomington-based digital consulting group Nerdery Vice President Arpit Jain said. “And it also helps you push and nudge the other person and say, 'Hey, why didn't you do that.'"
When 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS asked Jain about the app he said he’s not surprised to see the political process becoming more tech-savvy, following in the footsteps of the retail, banking and health care industries by offering apps for convenience.
While the Vote With Me app is new, using public voter participation information in this way is not.
Campaign mailings displayed as "voter report cards" are also arriving in mailboxes across the state. They show a voters’ participation history and that of others who live nearby without identifying them specifically. The mailings are similarly aimed at applying some peer pressure to get people to vote.
Vote With Me’s developers said voters are 20 times more likely to respond to encouragement from friends to vote than strangers.
"Every person who can vote should go and vote. And if this gives you a little nudge, what better than that. I see this as a win-win across many fronts,” Jain said.
Minnesota State Department officials want to remind voters they can register to vote in person at the polls on Election Day.
Updated: November 02, 2018 07:03 PM
Created: November 02, 2018 04:59 PM
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