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March 30, 2012 at 10:49 AM
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.
March 28, 2012 at 6:30 AM
One week ago this morning, Mitt Romney was still patting himself on the back after a double-digit victory in the March 20 Illinois primary.
The celebration was short lived.
Later that day, Romney communications director Eric Fehrnstrom appeared on CNN and when answering a question related to conservative stances if his candidate were to win the GOP nomination, compared the fall campaign to shaking an Etch A Sketch.
Media outlets and social media streams jumped on the gaffe, sales of Etch A Sketches shot up 3000%, and both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich began to use newly purchased Etch A Sketches as props during campaign stops. The Colbert Report had a field day. The event is even referenced now on the Etch A Sketch Wikipedia entry.
But a Pew Research Center poll released yesterday reveals that 55% of the public has not heard of the Etch A Sketch story. With the relentless 24-hour news cycle, can the Romney campaign shake the screen clear, so to speak, and move on?
While the Etch A Sketch story may fade as Romney’s delegate count increases, it will be interesting to see if the Obama campaign chooses to revisit the story come fall, should Romney secure the nomination. Stay tuned, and don’t turn that dial.
March 5, 2012 at 12:45 PM
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.
February 18, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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, Dan Savage of The Stranger created and promoted a site that redefined Santorum’s name into a substance I would rather not describe.
For a long time, Savage’s site, spreadingsantorum.com, came in as the first result on the results pages for various search engines. It’s taken awhile but Santorum’s main campaign site has now replaced Savage’s for the first spot on the results page.
Similar “campaign disruption” sites have been created to target other Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul. However, these sites do not rank very highly on the results page, and in the case of Paul, the site is actually positive: it claims Ron Paul=Champion of the Constitution.
Paul has a different search engine problem, which is an example of Instance #2: his own campaign is ineffectively promoting Paul.
A web search for “Ron Paul” will produce a barrage of sites, and at first glance it is near impossible to discern which site is the official Paul campaign site. All of the results sound legitimate enough: ronpaul.com, ronpaul2012.com, ronpaul.org, ronpaulforpresident2012.com, and ronpaul2012.net, just to name a few.
The internet presence of candidates is crucial in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Having a centralized web identity is paramount for two reasons.
First, it’s about consistency of message. Voters go to websites to learn about a candidate’s personal story and to learn about their stance on issues. For a candidate like Paul, who has literally stayed on message since the 1960s, having any inconsistency across the sites is problematic.
For example, curious individuals who go to RonPaul2012.com and want to know more about health care are met with two clear, concise messages: “Do no harm,” and “Freedom not force.” The first talks briefly about Paul’s professional history as a doctor and his commitment to this principle of medicine. The latter zones in on Paul’s desire to repeal the Obama administration’s health care law and lays out an exacting plan of how he will work with Congress in a short list of bullet points.
However, someone who goes to RonPaul.com in search of health care information encounters a somewhat rambling message interspersed with videos, transcripts, and excerpts before concluding with a 16-point plan.
RonPaul2012.com is the campaign’s official site and RonPaul.com is a fan site, but the two contend for the first position on the search-engine results page, followed by a litany of other sites. (Try googling “Ron Paul,” which site do you get first?) For the casual searcher, it can be confusing which to pick. And for a candidate, looking to get an exact message to potential voters, it can be damaging if the searcher selects the fan site first.
The other crucial aspect of a centralized campaign site is distributing and disseminating consistent information about events.
When voters, supporters, or interested citizens want to know more about a candidate’s event schedule, they often go to their website. This approach makes perfect sense. But when there are multiple websites with different event information, things are no longer simple.
The official Paul site has timely event postings, documenting his rallies and appearances for the next few days. The site also integrates various Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Google Maps, and iCal options so users can get event information to social networks, map locations of events, or add it to their personal calendar.
As for the other sites, forget about fancy integration: they don’t even have events. The fan site doesn’t have any events listed until Election Day. For the casual searcher, it is confusing.
We have all heard that Paul has a devoted, young following who, because of their generational familiarity with technology, are able to surf the interwebs and find his official site with the desired event information. Such folks arrived en masse at Paul’s SeaTac rally this past Thursday. But for the casual supporter or person who wants to experience Paul-mania in person, Paul’s multiplying web presence can be tricky to navigate.
Paul may want — and need — to take a page from Santorum’s playbook on getting the real Ron Paul to come in first.
February 16, 2012 at 6:30 AM
Rick Santorum hits one million…on Temple Run, or how presidential candidates now embrace video games
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.
February 6, 2012 at 10:18 AM
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. (more…)
February 4, 2012 at 8:10 PM
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. (more…)
February 3, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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.” (more…)
January 28, 2012 at 10:22 AM
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 first time a public platform has been used by a state party to tally and share results: the GOP used Google in the Iowa caucus for mapping and tracking purposes, which created unexpected competition for the Associated Press (AP), the established authority on official vote results. Why? Google was faster, and free.
Speed is prized in a news cycle, and with shrinking news bureau budgets, costs are an issue. Twitter and Google are appealing on both counts: they deliver data with dazzling efficiency, at a price you can’t beat. But unlike tweets waxing poetic about a fresh baked scone or heavenly fruit smoothie, accuracy is paramount when it comes to vote counting.
There is no doubt that Twitter takes the pulse of events well, with hashtags aggregating an experience, as was reported back in June at one of the first GOP debates. But while Twitter excels at capturing an emotional snapshot, how will it perform in this new capacity? The UW Election Eye 2012 team plans to find out next week, when we will be in Nevada to cover the caucus. Follow our movements on Twitter through the #uwelectioneye hashtag: Nevada could represent the ultimate disruption for Twitter, or an unmitigated disaster.