Aside from the politics, opinions, and issues involved in this election, I’ve been really interested in how the current state of web technology, survey data, online conversation and public information would be merging together into web applications and utilities for the growing digital electorate.
From finding a voting location, to enabling countrywide real-time political conversation (by people, not pundits), to monitoring live election results, and even reporting quality of service measurements at poll stations, below are my favorite examples of the web working hard to improve the democratic process.
Where And How To Vote
Google is providing what is essentially a voting howto map that will help you with directions to your voting location as well as information about your state’s election regulations. After you type in your address, you’ll be shown the location of your voting precinct, as well as useful links to registration information for your state. Many states allow “day of” voter registration, so if you haven’t already registered and you’d like to vote, it’s worth checking out.
Tweet Your Vote
It’s simple. We voters are using Twitter and other texting tools to report on how the vote is really going during this election, and we’re urging everyone to use the common word (or “hashtag” in Twitter lingo) of #votereport as they do so. If that happens, we’ll all be able watch on maps and graphs how the election is going across the country.
To participate, you’ll want to Tweet details on your voting experience, including your location, wait time, quality of experience, and any problems that you ran into. Useful hashtags include: #[zip code], #wait:[minutes], #good or #bad, and #machine or $reg (for machine or registration problems). For example:
#votereport things are #good in #55404 with #wait:30
This will let local volunteer monitors know that things are functioning well in the 55404 area code and that the wait time at the polls is only 30 minutes. More information is available at the Twitter Vote Report web site, and in the video above, including ways to report serious issues as well as reporting status by phone.
Monitor Poll and Survey Data
You can monitor trend estimates for the presidential, senate, and house elections on pollster.com. The map data provides a working estimate of the election outcomes by calculating regression trendlines based on available survey data.
In most cases, the numbers are not an “average” but rather regression based trendlines. The specific methodology depends on the number of polls available.
- If we have at least 8 public polls, we fit a trend line to the dots represented by each poll using a “Loess” iterative locally weighted least squares regression.
- If we have between 4 and 7 polls, we fit a linear regression trend line (a straight line) to best fit the points.
- If we have 3 polls or fewer, we calculate a simple average of the available surveys.
Clicking on a state will give you more information about the poll data, as well as the computed trendline that forms the basis of the predicted outcome.
Tweet Your Opinions
Twitter is running a special Election 2008 filter that lets you track opinions and conversations about the presidential election through the lens of users’ Tweets. Basically, any time you use the word Obama, McCain, Palin or Biden in a tweet, it will show up in the live monitor. The site uses AJAX requests to pull in successive batches of updates and display the messages in almost real-time. You can filter by a particular candidate, or just watch the whole passionate conversation roll by, assuming you can read fast enough.
View Live Election Results
Google is also providing live election results in a map gadget. As precincts begin sending in data, the map above should change to reflect the current reports. You can embed this in your own page by following the link below. The gadget allows you to customize the embed code to track either the presidential, house, or senate election.
Send Us Your Favorite Election Hack
Do you know of any voting mashup hacks or tools that I’ve missed? Please add them to the comments!
(Keep in mind that we want to hear about your favorite election tech, but please reserve any political discussion for a more appropriate site.)