Mobile Technology and Grassroots Workforce

Updated: January 01, 2012

Standing in line waiting for one of thousands of walk lists that were printed out in mass, handed out in mass, and sent them to an area that is nowhere near where they live is hardly the most efficient way to mobilize your volunteers. Where's the empowerment? The whole process simply doesn't make sense. It wastes the time of the volunteer and the time of the campaign staff works who have to sit for hours on end printing, distributing, and ultimately entering the data that is collected back into a Voter management system manually. With thousands of pieces of data coming in daily, you have a staff workforce that is twice the size it needs to be.

There are solutions coming, and they are being developed at a pace like never-before. In the last 3 years alone, starting with the Obama Presidential campaign in 2008, mobile technology has aimed to address some of these issues. Here are 5 trends you are seeing more of that will become the norm in the next 5 years:

  • Mobile Campaign Apps

These apps are being developed by several technology firms across the US. President Obama was one of the first candidates to roll out an i-phone app on a national scale. (Gizmodo, 2008)This app allowed interested individuals from all over the country to get live updates on what the campaign was doing. Also included was the ability to utilize popular social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter. The app made it easy to invite friends to get involved. As you may recall, the turnout for President Obama was the highest since John F. Kennedy was elected. Be on the lookout for apps that work with all different types of smartphones.

  • GPS based door-to-door canvassing

Printable walk-lists are extremely inconvenient. They waste your most valuable resources, time and money. Starting in 2012, you're going to see larger percentages of people using smartphones to take down valuable voter information while they go door-to-door. With GPS guided functionality, the decision on which house to go to next will be made for them automatically, and a friendly user interface with survey questions right on their screen will make their jobs a lot easier. The best perk? Volunteers just have to step outside, turn their phone on, and they can start doing valuable work for their campaign. Scott Brown recently used Edge Targeting's Walking Edge Technology to help him in the last 72 hours of his election. (The Atlantic, 2010)

  • Online Geo-based phone banking

The Tea Party utilized an online phone banking system just before the 2010 midterm elections. With such a large organization, it would seem impossible to get that many people working at the same time. Just 2 weeks before the election, Tea Party Patriots sent out emails, posted links on facebook, twitter, and other affiliated sites, and during the last few days of the election there were literally thousands and thousands of calls made each day by volunteers all over the country reminding people to GOTV, all from the comfort of their own home. What's interesting is that very few of these volunteers had to accrue any long distance costs. The program automatically brings up the nearest voter to their location, meaning the calls will be local. An added perk? Calling in neighborhoods increases the chance of a quality conversation on the phone, meaning more accurate data and more grassroots involvement

  • Voter Fraud Watching

None of these applications are useful if there isn't a way to manage the voter data

  • Poll Watching

Again, utilizing smartphones, volunteers will be able to sit at polling stations and mark people off manually as they come in to vote. The data acquired, preferably in real time, can be exported and loaded into auto-dialers to send out reminders to those who haven't voted. Also, this gives the campaigns an opportunity to see how they are doing in real-time against the opposition, better allowing them to utilize their resources.

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