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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

Topic: Technology

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March 30, 2012 at 10:49 AM

King County Elections survey finds high satisfaction; youth want technology

King County Elections ballot

King County switched to an entirely vote-by-mail system after the 2008 general election. It is now exploring more technologically advanced options, such as voting online. (Photo by Alicia Halberg/UW Election Eye)

King County Elections released survey results earlier this week looking into voters’ awareness, perceptions, and satisfaction with the department, as well as the viability of using new technologies in future elections.

Results varied substantially by age group.

King County is home to 1.1 million registered voters, and King County Elections‘ mission statement focuses on “conducting accurate, secure and accessible elections” for those voters.

The phone survey was conducted in September and October of 2011 with 604 interviews across North, South, and East King County. Respondents were evenly split on gender (51% female), heavily identified as Caucasian (83%), and an average age of 47 years old. Additionally, half said they had an annual income of $75,000 or more, and 30% had completed a four-year college degree and 29% had completed post-graduate education.

The survey found that 86% of respondents are satisfied with the overall quality of services provided by King County Elections, and the main reason for dissatisfaction was “nostalgia for voting in person” — something I’d bet could be mitigated by sending out those “I voted” stickers with ballots. This concern notably beat out worries about mail fraud, which garnered half as many responses.


Comments | Topics: Demographics, King County, king county elections

March 5, 2012 at 12:45 PM

Fishy Robocalls — 'tis the season

King County voters received phony robocalls, claiming the Republican caucuses on March 3 were cancelled.

King County voters received phony robocalls that claimed the Republican caucuses on March 3 were cancelled. (Photo by tj scenes/

Nowadays, robocalling is standard practice for political campaigns. In a presidential election year, almost everyone can expect an automated phone call here and there. This nomination season, voters in contested states, like South Carolina or Ohio, racked up dozens of robotic voice mails. Sometimes it’s Robo-Robert on the other end of the cord, sometimes it’s Barbara Bush. Usually, it’s just annoying.

Nevertheless, setting up an automated phone bank is usually easier than finding flesh-and-blood volunteers. With companies like Republican Robo Calls — who assure the customer they’ve never worked with a Democrat — charging only two to seven cents per call, million dollar campaigns can hardly afford not use them.

Yet for a system supposedly designed to avoid human error, there’s certainly a lot of it. Whether it’s scandalous content, like accusing John McCain of fathering an illegitimate black child in 2000, or just ringing the wrong households, like Rick Santorum phoning Democrats in Michigan, robocalling can be disastrous for both its users and subjects.

The robocalls that peppered Washington state in anticipation of the Republican caucus had their share of trickery as well.


Comments | Topics: Barbara Bush, campaign oddities, Caucuses

February 18, 2012 at 6:30 AM

Adventures in campaign miscommunication: Ron Paul has problems coming in first…on Google

Finding a presidential candidate’s official website can be tricky. Sometimes that is because someone has intentionally disrupted a campaign’s public message. Sometimes it is a campaign’s own fault. Consider an example of Instance #1: In 2003 during an interview, Rick Santorum spoke about homosexuality and bestiality in the same breath. In response, More

Comments | Topics: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum

February 16, 2012 at 6:30 AM

Rick Santorum hits one million…on Temple Run, or how presidential candidates now embrace video games

Photo by

On almost any smartphone or tablet, amid the e-mail clients and various apps, one is likely to find a mobile game or two. Look on Rick Santorum’s iPad and you will see Temple Run.

I discovered this about the presidential candidate’s gaming habits when I spoke to his eldest daughter and son, Elizabeth and John. They said that as a family they don’t have time to play a console game on Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii, so they gather around the iPad to play games while on the campaign trail.

Santorum is not alone in his fondness of the game. Temple Run was one of the 50 most-downloaded apps in the App Store in December 2011, and has over 1.8 million likes on Facebook. The game runs on Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, and, according to its creators Imangi Studios, it tests “your reflexes as you race down ancient temple walls and along sheer cliffs.”

Sounds like the perfect game for a presidential candidate.

I talked briefly with Santorum in Denver last week, and recounted my conversation with his children about Temple Run. Almost sheepishly, the presidential candidate replied, “When I go home my kids load all this junk on my iPad…I played it once and here I am….It used to be Angry Birds, now it’s Temple Run.”

His campaign manager later tugged his arm to direct him to the next interview, but Santorum wasn’t quite done yet. He asked, “Did they tell you what my high score was?” I said around one million, and he replied, “Yeah, it’s not very good.”

He’s right. Type in “highest score on Temple Run” on YouTube and one finds hundreds of videos with players getting into the multi-millions. To be fair, though, Santorum does have his hands full right now with things other than perfecting his gaming skills.

But there is a more serious aspect to all of this.


Comments | Topics: Barack Obama, campaign oddities, casual games

February 6, 2012 at 10:18 AM

Nevada GOP's fail whale: A warning to all political organizations

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL — Storify is a software that enables a media-rich method of synthesizing and telling of a story. We employ it here to document and interpret key moments in the Nevada Republican Party’s decision to use — and trumpet — technologies such as Google and Twitter to digitally publicize caucus results.

But they failed to provide a crucial element: The analog infrastructure actually required to count handmarked ballots.

Consider this a cautionary tale for all political organizations, including the Republican Party in Washington state, which hosts caucuses slightly less than a month from today.


Comments | Topics: campaign oddities, caucus, Caucuses

February 4, 2012 at 8:10 PM

The War Room: Where Nevada votes are counted

Panorama of the War Room

LAS VEGAS — The Palazzo Hotel’s Dos Caminos restaurant is the temporary home of the Nevada caucus – “First in the West!” — press filing room. We gained entrance a few hours ago. What the room has in clever Americana décor, it lacks in media enthusiasm.

Scattered around the largely empty space were a handful of reporters, quietly clacking away on their laptops, with elevated plasma televisions projecting Google’s election website. Periodically, a news crew sauntered up to the vacant podium to film a results speculation, but otherwise the room was calm. A back-lit Google sign hung over the complementary goodies in the corner — vases of M&Ms arranged by color, rows of fruit and swag sunglasses. .

We idled here for two hours with little activity earlier this morning. But then we were ready for more.

Enter Ryan Mahoney, a young Communications and Research spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. He was our “in” to what the Nevada GOP was calling the War Room: where county caucus results were aggregated and general election oversight took place.

We followed Mahoney past the casino floor, passing a huge fire-breathing Chinese dragon — not kidding — as we chatted amicably about Twitter and Mahoney’s love of politics. (Oh and there’s also a waterfall decorated with oversized Chinese coins and lanterns — the place is ridiculous in the best way.)

Mahoney navigated the convoluted hotel briskly, obviously familiar with its labyrinth of high-end shops, Italian restaurants and Blue Man Group ticket counters. By the time we popped inside an elevator, I was at a loss for our location. Just as he intended.


Comments | Topics: caucus, Caucuses, counting votes

February 3, 2012 at 6:30 AM

Twitter is critical for #Nevada caucuses and future of #GOP presidential race

The way candidates win elections hasn’t changed in centuries: shaking hands, kissing babies, and showing voters that you’re a normal person, just like them. But now technology has caught up to the horse race. If you want to win, you better send a tweet.

The media giant Twitter wasn’t popular enough to be included in the 2008 election cycle. But four years later it’s not just a critical tool being used by every candidate, it will also be announcing the winner of the Nevada Republican Party caucuses.

The Nevada GOP announced in a statement earlier this week that they would be partnering with Twitter and Google to release the results of the caucuses on Saturday.  This will be the first time Twitter is used to announce election results and the second time for Google, which was used to track the Iowa caucuses as well.

The results will be coming in through two feeds: @NVGOP will be tweeting statewide vote totals and news, while @NVVoteCount will be tweeting results from each precinct as they become available. The official results from legacy news outlets like the Associated Press may be a few minutes behind, but they’ll be checked for accuracy along the way.

More than 2,000 individual precincts are expected to report via this method. But this shouldn’t be too hard to manage for the media site that boasted over 200 million tweets a day from over 1 million users as of August 2011.

Adam Sharp (@AdamS), Manager of Government & Politics at Twitter, said his company is revolutionizing how people get information.

“Twitter is at its core a real-time information network, where users go to instantly connect to information that’s meaningful to them,” Sharp said in an email interview. “An election or caucus night is one of those purest moments when voters are glued to that kind of real-time stream to find the answer to a basic question: ‘who won?’  So it really is a perfect match.”


Comments | Topics: Election 2012, Nevada, Nevada GOP

January 28, 2012 at 10:22 AM

Caucus Tweets: Nevada GOP will use Twitter to release voting results

SEATTLE — The running joke about Twitter is that it allows people to share what they ate for breakfast. For the Nevada caucuses we will get voting results to accompany our bacon and eggs. The Nevada Republican Party has announced it will use Twitter to share minute-by-minute voting results from their Feb 3 caucus. This is not the…


Comments | Topics: Associated Press, Election 2012, Google