Introducing VoteTrack OR

By Ben Matasar of Portland, Oregon. Ben is a software engineer and political activist.

As a guy who works on a web database for a living, I'm always thinking about how it might be possible to help out my favorite causes and candidates via the web.

As a board member (on hiatus) of the Bus Project, I'm interested in ways to increase turnout. I've tried various things in the past, mostly internal tools to help build walklists and such.

This year, I've built something exciting with the fine folks at Our Oregon. I'd like to introduce VoteTrack OR, which is a new way to check on the status of your ballot and that of your friends.

How it works

VoteTrack OR collects just enough information to search for you in a voter database. Then, it takes you to your personal dashboard, where you can check on your ballot or invite friends to do the same. Now that ballots are out, we'll be updating your dashboard every day to reflect which of your friends have voted. So come back every day, and check which of your friends vote right away and which wait until the last second. You can also remind them via a "poke," which should be familiar to Facebook users.

Your dashboard includes the voting status of you and your friends. It looks like this:

Dashboard

A green checkmark means your friend has voted, a red box means they haven't, and a blue question mark means your friend hasn't signed up yet.

Check it out.

Comments

  • Rulial (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Great idea! Since you mention Facebook, maybe you should make it into a Facebook app. People could display on their profile that they've voted! I bet it could be a useful GOTV tool for college students if you did that.

  • Ben Matasar (unverified)
    (Show?)

    A Facebook app is on the list for 2010 :)

  • (Show?)

    Hey Ben! Really neat tool. Can't wait to check it out.

  • RW (unverified)
    (Show?)

    As a healthcare Quality Professional working in the areas of greatest confidentiality and investigation at a slightly lower level, I am curious: is it really advisable to do a daylight system such as "vote track"? I'm not certain I'd like to have someone tracking whether I voted or not - but on the other side of this is the partipatory aspects of youth culture, and needing to accomodate and reach towards that.

    It might really important to eductate strongly on the power of confidentiality, and the phenomena such as the Bradley Effect, peer pressure suchlike... I may sound simple minded, but some little bell keeps going off in my head that this might invite intrusions and utilizations that are NOT friendly, passive, comradely.

    Can you speak to this? Not an attack. Speaking as someone who daily must balance confidentiality and also daily addresses issues of right use of access, knowledge, power at a low level.

  • Jesse Cornett (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Your picture up there says "Our database says the state hasn't yet received your ballot"

    Ballots go to the counties. You should be precise in your website so that people will want to enter their data.

    The State of Oregon oversees elections. They don't now or never have collected ballots. So the statement I started with is now and will always be correct.

  • (Show?)

    I'm not certain I'd like to have someone tracking whether I voted or not

    Well, it's worth noting that there are already LOTS of people already tracking whether you've voted or not. The Obama campaign, the Merkley campaign, your local state lege candidates, the ballot measure campaigns, any local candidates near you, etc.

    This is public record. (As is your birthday, party registration, and home address. Just call your county elections office.)

  • (Show?)

    You actually need more information to check to see if your ballot has been returned using this tool than you would if you called into your local county elections office.

    Because this is all public information, anyone can easily get that information. It's free if you're just calling in to check on a small number of ballots. If you need to check on a lot of ballots (like for a campaign), then you purchase the data that matches up with your voter file.

  • Jiang (unverified)
    (Show?)

    These "use the voter database" deals can backfire. There's a racist Palin fanatic that lives below me and he got the idea to leave a voter registration card on my door and told me to leave the completed form in his mailbox.

    When my ballot came, I took the envelope and wrote "Satisfied? Don't check back. X ABM." If I had been an undecided I can assure you it would have made my mind up and not in McKraps favor.

    Bottom line: people still do value their privacy. Aggressive marketing that starts with "how do you know that about me" ain't gonna win friends and influence people. And I'm an expert on not doin' that!

  • Jiang (unverified)
    (Show?)

    These "use the voter database" deals can backfire. There's a racist Palin fanatic that lives below me and he got the idea to leave a voter registration card on my door and told me to leave the completed form in his mailbox.

    When my ballot came, I took the envelope and wrote "Satisfied? Don't check back. X ABM." If I had been an undecided I can assure you it would have made my mind up and not in McKraps favor.

    Bottom line: people still do value their privacy. Aggressive marketing that starts with "how do you know that about me" ain't gonna win friends and influence people. And I'm an expert on not doin' that!

  • (Show?)

    Wow Ben -- you have been busy! Excellent work, I can't wait to fool around with this.

  • Jefferson Smith (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Ben Matasat is a flippin' asset to democracy.

  • Jefferson Smith (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Introducing Ben Matasat.

  • Emily Matasat (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Nice work, Ben! Just be sure to share the wealth when you become rich and famous inventing your fancy electronic thingies.

  • Ben Matasar (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Jesse,

    I've corrected the sloppy language in the app re: state vs county, if not the picture yet.

    Ben

  • (Show?)

    This happened because the Matasars are from the future.

  • RW (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Kari - yep, I'm aware that my voting is tracked by certain interested entities from within the electoral systems. It's how I found out my effort to reg got all fubarred up and had to be fixed. I've a friend who works in Clackamas elections who keeps his eye on my little family for me.

    However, that's a far cry from installing it as some dashboard dingus out in the Facebook black hole.

    I confess to tremendous ignorance, and just a small paranoiac bell that says "someone's gonna abuse this sucker if they can figure out how".

    HOWEVER: it could be whizzied up to be used as a participatory/social-networking voter development tool. I can really see it used in elementary schools to teach kids about elections by running their school elections through it; in a mini-UN for older students... it's a possible great learning tool as well as a real-world instrument of connection.

    However, I have to say, just because the parties you named get to robocall my ass and watch me till I vote does not mean having even MORE people toggled into those information streams more-easily is a good thing.

  • rw (unverified)
    (Show?)

    ... all of that said, it would have been great if my son and all of his buds were wired into this... perhaps every last little seedling of them WOULD follow through and vote if they were all poking each other periodically in the leadup.

    <h2>This could become a tool for fighting some the voter eradication work being done by the GOP.</h2>
guest column

connect with blueoregon