Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Election Day software advances at social-media sites, stalled at polling places

By Rob Pegoraro

If the usual exhortations to vote--it matters, it's easy, it preserves your right to say "don't blame me, I voted for the other candidate," it's your job as an American citizen--don't work--how about the chance to collect a virtual badge at a social-media site?


Today, Facebook is welcoming U.S. users with an invitation to find their polling place and click an "I Voted" button, which adds the graphic at right to their profile. As of 12:11 p.m., 3,074,371 people on Facebook had done so.

In the weeks before the election, some Facebookers had been posting a "Commit to Vote" badge on friend's pages--part of a campaign set up by the Democratic National Committee's Organizing For America project. Three friends did so on my own profile--one of whom has always struck me as a committed, free-market Republican.

(4:01 p.m. The AllFacebook blog has been collecting some interesting stats on which parties and candidates have drawn more fans on the social network--with more metrics like that, including data on which candidates have been talked about the most on Facebook, coming in an online town hall tonight. But AllFacebook's numbers also illustrate how looking at data from one site can lead you astray; gubernatorial candidates Meg Whitman [R-Calif.] and Bill White [D.-Tex.] have far more fans than their opponents, but polls have both losing by non-trivial margins.)

Foursquare has its own "I Voted" badge, which you can collect by including "#ivoted" in your shout-out when you check in. (I only wrote "I voted" when I checked in at my polling place and still collected this badge. It looks like checking in at a location tagged as having a voting booth or with a name beginning "Voting at..." suffices.)

The New York-based check-in service also has a nifty elections page (designed by the District firm JESS3) that lets you look up voting location (it will try to determine your physical spot from your computer's Internet address) and monitor voting trends as seen through Foursquare check-ins. So far, it's seen 12,794 check-ins at 8,028 venues, with 61 percent of check-ins by men and 39 percent by women.

Over at Twitter, you may notice that "#Election" shows up atop its trends list as a "Promoted" topic. You can thank The Post for that. We bought that hashtag, ensuring that anybody who clicks on it will see a link to our election coverage before all other tweets using the same tag.

But if the state of election-related social-media software has never been better, election software itself is another thing. The District's recent experiment in online voting ended after computer researchers easily broke into the site. And numerous polling locations continue to serve up the same creaky electronic-voting machine as ever.


Take the obsolete WinVote terminal I just voted on in Arlington--please! This is the fifth year I've been presented with one of these relics, have been annoyed to see its failure to grasp the basic user-interface principle that a red X means "no," not "yes," and therefore doesn't work as a symbol representing your vote for something and have wondered what other poor design choices lurk below that dim-witted interface.

(Disclosure: My wife works in the county's IT department but has no involvement with elections or voter registration.)

What sort of voting hardware or software have you used today? Post your review in the comments--and let me know if you've recorded your participation on any social-media site.

And if you haven't voted yet, do so. It matters, it's easy, it preserves your right to say "don't blame me, I voted for the other candidate," and--most important--it's your job as an American citizen.

By Rob Pegoraro  | November 2, 2010; 12:36 PM ET
Categories:  Policy and politics, Social media, The business we have chosen  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Video: A look at two Windows Phone 7 devices
Next: Post-election tech-policy forecast: Nothing


I voted for Kodos!

Write-in, obviously.

Posted by: wiredog | November 2, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Now that DC has a "no excuses needed" absentee ballot I voted with an absentee ballot. No waiting in line, easy “use to pen to fill in circles” interface, and a home internet connection to check on candidates that I did not recognize. The whole approach seems much better than the “go to a required spot and wait your turn” technology. Only down side was the two stamps to mail in the ballot....worth every penny if you ask me.

Posted by: AdamsMorganTom | November 2, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

I voted in Loudoun County yesterday. As in the last election, there was a choice: some sort of electronic voting machine (I tried to get a look at it, but they wouldn't let me), or an optically-read paper ballot. I opted for the paper, as did most of the people who were voting at that time. I observed the same pattern in the previous election; I think it's mildly interesting in a fairly tech-savvy area.

I personally doubt that the problems with electronic voting will be solved anytime soon.

FYI, Prof. Ed Felten has an election-day post on E-voting over at "Freedom to Tinker":

Posted by: richg74 | November 3, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

For the past 3 years in Loudoun, they've given voters a choice between paper and the touch screen. The touch screen they use is a model from Diebold which doesn't seem to suffer from the same UI issues referenced. However, they certainly take longer to cast a ballot on than the paper ballots. The county says that they're there for ADA compliance, since the text can be enlarged and an audio feature is available.

Having worked as an election officer in the past, it's interesting to note that the demographics are sifting. The first year I worked, it was mainly younger (under 50) voters who used the touch screen. Now, it appears an equal number of all demographics use it. Equally interesting is the number of people who choose to wait in line to use the touch screen vs. no waiting for the paper ballot.

As an aside, one major advantage of the paper ballot is variable bandwidth. In other words, during the 2008 election, a given precinct could accommodate 25 voters balloting at once with minimal additional cost ($0.50 per pen). The same bandwidth expansion with electronic voting would have cost the county thousands per machine.

Posted by: dannews | November 5, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company