Did You Vote? Now Your Friends May Know (and Nag You)


My dentist, a registered Republican, did not vote in the last midterm elections, in 2014.

But the owner of my local bookstore, a registered Democrat, did vote then. So did my accountant, who is not registered with either party.

I know these details not because the dentist, the bookseller and the accountant volunteered to share their voting histories with me. I found out from VoteWithMe and OutVote, two new political apps that are trying to use peer pressure to get people to vote Tuesday.

The apps are to elections what Zillow is to real estate — services that pull public information from government records, repackage it for consumer viewing and make it available at the touch of a smartphone button. But instead of giving you a peek at house prices, VoteWithMe and OutVote let you snoop on which of your friends voted in past elections and their party affiliations — and then prod them to go to the polls by sending them scripted messages like “You gonna vote?”

“I don’t want this to come off like we’re shaming our friends into voting,” said Naseem Makiya, the chief executive of OutVote, a start-up in Boston. But, he said, “I think a lot of people might vote just because they’re frankly worried that their friends will find out if they didn’t.”

“You want to use that gentle social pressure around voting,” said Amanda Coulombe, general manager of organizing at NGP VAN, a campaign technology company for Democrats, “but really making sure you are balancing that with not freaking people out.”

The apps also distinguish engaged voters from wayward ones.

If someone in your contacts list has a perfect voting record, OutVote identifies him or her as a “super voter” and displays an emoji of a smiley face with red hearts for eyes next to the name. For those “woke friends who vote,” it suggests sending a message saying: “I know you’re gonna vote on November 6 DUH, but make sure to remind your friends too!”

Both apps display election years that people have skipped with a big red slash next to their names. OutVote marks voters who missed elections with a sad-faced emoji dripping a tear.

A spokesman for Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said that she was purged from the New York voter rolls in 2016 and that he was looking into 2014. Ms. Milano said, in a message sent via her publicist, that she was dealing at the time with severe postpartum depression after the premature birth of her daughter.

By inspecting data that the apps harvested from our contacts, The Times also found that they took more personal data than required to match voters — such as the workplace and email address of Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican.

After queries from The Times, VoteWithMe and OutVote each said they had eliminated some types of data that their apps were harvesting. In subsequent testing last week, The Times found that VoteWithMe no longer collected email addresses, street names and numbers, or company names. But OutVote continued to do so. Mr. Makiya of OutVote said the app had stopped collecting social profile data but needed the email addresses to match voter files.



Source link Nytimes.com

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