Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Voter Turnout Via Blackberries for the Ciommo Campaign

In the municipal preliminary election yesterday for the Allston-Brighton District 9 City Council seat, I received several reports that workers for the Mark Ciommo campaign were at various precincts with their Blackberries. Those reports didn't really describe what they were doing with the Blackberries -- a traditional use or something more clever.

I spoke with their campaign today and found out that the PDA Blackberries were part of their get-out-the-vote effort on election day using software written by a company called "First Tuesday in November". I can't find information online about the company, but it is part of the Sage Systems consulting that Ciommo is using to run his campaign. They claim that this is the first time such software has been used on an election day in Massachusetts.

The way it works: at some point in the middle of election day, a campaign worker at the precinct polling place inspects the list of who has voted; he then checks off those names on the Blackberry; the information is uploaded in real-time to the computer back at the campaign office; and then a worker at the office immediately knows who among their identified supporters in that precinct hasn't yet voted and needs to be called. The advantage of the PDA approach is not only the speed and efficiency with which the information is recorded into the master database, but also that there is no time-delay in getting the information to the campaign office's phone callers. In other words, they don't waste time calling a supporter who voted during the last hour or so. One person reported to me yesterday that they got called by a campaign two hours after they had actually voted -- they were obviously not called by the Ciommo campaign.

This system has some potential working in the other direction, too. The worker carrying the Blackberry can be told where to go to visit somebody's house to help get them to the polls. The technology sure sounds like the way of the future for campaigns all across the country.

Pretty slick!

The Ciommo campaign reported that they were swimming in volunteers on election day, such that they had a little bit of trouble keeping them all busy. I guess the efficiency of computers is not only taking over people's jobs -- it's also taking away the need for so many volunteers on election day.


Deborah said...

"at some point in the middle of the day" isn't really an accurate description of poll-checking. The campaign poll-checker is there during the time when the people vote and checks off names as voters come in. I was a Schofield poll-checker, but was definitely admiring the efficiency of the Ciommo campaign poll-checker's Blackberry. There's no question that real-time updates are great for both campaigns and voters.

Michael Pahre said...

Fair enough.

To be more specific, the Ciommo campaign had significantly fewer Blackberries for using in this manner than the number of precincts (but they couldn't tell me off-hand the exact number of Blackberries).

As a result, they had a poll-checker there continuously at some (busy) precincts, but in others they effectively had to share one device amongst several (low-activity) precincts -- and hence "showing up periodically during the day" would probably be more accurate for those low turnout locations.

David Cerrone said...

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Thank You for your interest in our technology.