I. In Focus This Week
Voting Information Project makes official data available wherever voters look for it – online
In 2008, The Pew Charitable Trusts and Google realized voters were having trouble finding accurate voting information. Millions of people were looking for answers to three main questions: “Where do I vote?”, “What’s on my ballot?”, and “How do I navigate the election process?” but no standardized, reliable, and official source for this information existed.
Pew partnered with Google and the states to address the issue by creating the Voting Information Project (VIP). Pew works on VIP with state election officials to develop cutting-edge solutions to standardize and publish the data, and Google and other partners have ensured that voters find data where they’re looking for it most -- online. The results of this partnership have been dramatic.
During the 2014 general election, official information provided by VIP was accessed an estimated 31 million times from a variety of sources, including: Google products, such as Search; customized tools on the websites of national organizations such as the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Rock the Vote, and the League of Women Voters; or, on one of over 1,500 websites that housed VIP’s white-label voting information tool.
Additionally, Pew, in collaboration with The Internet Association and technology companies like Facebook, Foursquare, Google, and Twitter created the website Get to the Polls that saw approximately 8 million total page views, most on Election Day.
In addition to serving voters, VIP is also committed to providing state and local election officials with the resources they need to deliver important voting information to their constituents. To this end, VIP offers several free, open-source tools and apps that election officials can use to reach their voters:
The Voting Information Tool is an easily embeddable, mobile-optimized, white-label tool that provides official voting information–such as polling place and ballot information–to anyone using just a residential address. It is available in 10 languages. During the 2014 general election, the tool was embedded on the official state website in the following states: California, Iowa, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Virginia.
White-label iOS and Android apps that can be customized, branded, and released by state and local governments, or third-party organizations. Kansas was the first state to brand and release an iOS version of the app—VoteKansas—as its own.
Connecticut and North Carolina have also released their own branded versions. The apps are available in Spanish and English.
A short messaging service (SMS) tool will provide voters with election information via text message in 10 languages. By texting “VOTE” to GOVOTE (468683), voters can find polling places, contact information for local election officials, and registration URLs. This nationwide number, live later this year, will be available for state and local election officials to promote for users without a smartphone or internet access.
Throughout 2015, VIP is building a first-of-its kind Data Management Suite to collect, standardize, validate, and publish official election data. When complete, the Data Management Suite will process data formatted to match VIP’s 3.0 Specification and validate it against a set of criteria that rigorously tests for errors, from structural to geographical accuracy. This process is illustrated in an infographic recently released by Pew that visualizes the process of delivering data from a state to VIP.
As VIP builds out its Data Management Suite, it is simultaneously working to expand the scope of elections it supports. In 2015 VIP will cover over 60 elections, including municipal and down ballot races in several states. The project’s goal is to be “always on” in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, ensuring that if there is an election happening anywhere, voters can easily access the information they need to participate. With the pending release of its new system and its efforts to provide data for local elections, VIP is one of the most comprehensive sources for official election information across the county.
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