App Makers Using Technology To Replace Canvasing

by Matt Briscoe

Hollywood elites and special interest groups are not the only ones trying to urge young people to get out to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. A team of former Obama appointees has developed an application that is called, VoteWithMe, to encourage users to text their friends to push them to the polls—which the app’s creators say is more effective than traditional canvassing.

The app was developed by a group known as The New Data Project which in part, is headed up by executive director is Mikey Dickerson, the former Google engineer who was the first head of the US Digital Service, or Obama’s “trauma team” that saved HealthCare.gov after Obamacare launched in 2013. When their time in Washington ran dry, Dickerson, along with former Senior Writer for President Obama, Sarah Sullivan and other members of the trauma team, decided to create the nonprofit group that has now published this widely popular, yet controversial app.

By syncing your phone‘s  contact lists and pairing them with information from the public voter file, VoteWithMe shows which elections their friends have voted in and whether they’re eligible to vote in a swing district. 

While this might sound invasive, the app’s founders remind its users that the information it aggregates and displays is already, well, public information. 

The app also doesn’t ask for a username or password, and app makers say that users are promised that all of the data collected by the app will be deleted after the election. They also say that user information isn’t sold or used to send ads to your friends–though there is little to no guarantee of that anywhere in today’s political environment.

The app sparked a lot of questions in our newsroom and out in the community when we spoke with people.

“When an app starts nudging you to vote and sharing how your contacts voted, I think that is a pure invasion of privacy,” says Aaron Gonzales of Alice, Texas who is already anxious about voting for the first time.

Daniel Lloyd of San Antonio says that if you don’t like it, don’t download the app.

“If you don’t want people knowing if you voted or who you voted for, then just don’t download the damn thing,” says Lloyd.

But some say that the app is a blatant move to influence elections and more specifically the vote of the younger generation.

“Democrats know that they need to encourage and influence the younger vote and this is one way that they know to do it,” says Brian Everett, a Dallas based GOP strategist.

In the App Store, the Votewithme app blatantly says “Flip The House”, a term used in modern campaigning by democrats.

“What people need to know is that the app doesn’t vote for you, it simply makes an attempt to encourage you to vote. You also have to consider who is behind it and what their motives are,” says Everett.

Texas Take reaches out to the app maker. They have yet to respond.

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