Geek the vote

Geek the vote

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read

My voter information "pamphlet" arrived at my house a few days ago. I dropped it, and it nearly broke my foot. There's a ton of information in there, but it's a book. It's hard to scan, and it's hard to make sense of all the data at once.

As reported on Search Engine Watch, though, there are ways to get a better picture of the races in your particular district. Google Earth (not Maps) has a 2006 Election Guide layer. It shows you where the congressional district lines are drawn and pops up info about congressional incumbents and candidates. It links to Google and Google News, of course.

The housing rental site, HotPads, also has a district map, which does a better job of showing district lines: it fills in the districts, making them easier to see, and color-codes them by affiliation of the incumbent. It also pops up names of incumbents and candidates, but links only to Wikipedia--comprehensive, perhaps, but not always accurate, especially on contested political issues.

It's great to see services emerge that are doing the important work of clarifying the upcoming election. I'd like to see more, though. There are so many important and divisive issues at stake, and it can be hard for a voter to figure out which of his or her votes have the potential to make a difference, or where he or she should try to apply influence. Consumers can access stats galore on sports teams and the stock market, but precious few sites do a decent job of visually presenting the details and statistics on ballot issues. People do try, though: See this 2005 map mashup showing political contributions to the 2004 presidential campaign by zip code. Or check your neighbors' contributions at the 2004 FundRace Neighbor Search [see news story].