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Voting Info? In Oregon, There's an App for That

PHOTO: Closeup of icons on smartphone screen. Courtesy of publicdomainimages.com.
PHOTO: Closeup of icons on smartphone screen. Courtesy of publicdomainimages.com.
October 12, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. – Leave it to some of Oregon's high-tech start-up companies to develop the latest application for mobile devices, and it's just in time for the November election. The "Our Oregon Mobile Voter Guide" can pinpoint the political races and ballot measures in any part of the state, either from where the smartphone is at that moment, or from a home address that the user inputs. It's called geo-location technology, and was developed in Portland.

Jeff Lennan, co-founder and technology director of Winning Mark, a political media firm that helped develop the 'app,' says it's a way to engage voters with information - instead of annoying them with political ads.

"We're seeing a lot of really interesting examples - probably the most prominent I can think of right now is political advertising online. You're seeing a lot of pushback - polls are actually showing people saying that they're less likely to vote for a candidate they support if they see advertisements for that candidate online."

Lennan says the new technology is another way for advocacy groups to reach voters, but it comes with new challenges and the need to find ways it benefits the end user. One of the challenges in this case was the ability to quickly update the information if needed, he adds.

The progressive and labor groups that make up the "Our Oregon" coalition have included their stands on some issues on the app, but Lennan says there is also plenty of impartial information.

"There's a link to the actual Voters Pamphlet statement. And if you thumb through the app, you'll see most of the measures have just sort-of a 'measure at a glance.' What they strive to do in the case of this application is show organizations that are both for and against."

He says the Our Oregon Mobile Voter Guide is free and available for iPhones and iPads. A first look at the application is online at itunes.apple.com.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR