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February 13, 2010 1:13 PM   Subscribe

What were some novel uses of technology in the 2008 U.S. presidential election?

I'm looking for examples of creative or innovative uses of technology during the 2008 U.S. presidential election. For example, many people were using Twitter to organize events or respond to news, and Twitter setup a separate election subdomain. Campaigns incorporated a lot of video from 3rd parties on their official sites. Campaigns and supporters created facebook groups. What are some other examples of this sort of thing?
posted by heliostatic to Law & Government (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
From our own: iPhone App
posted by azlondon at 1:34 PM on February 13, 2010

2008 was the year that web-based fund raising really hit its stride.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:35 PM on February 13, 2010

Presidential candidates with YouTube channels.
posted by lunchbox at 1:51 PM on February 13, 2010

I think that 2008 was the first year that CNN superimposed graphs of real-time voter opinions over a presidential debate - although Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George described almost the same thing in their (very fun) 1994 techno-thriller Interface.

Chocolate Pickle: Really? I'd say that online fundraising hit its stride in 2004 with Howard Dean, though of course each election since then has pushed it further (and will keep doing so for a while).
posted by mbrubeck at 1:56 PM on February 13, 2010

Response by poster: Oh, another example: Obama had distributed phone banks. People would contact a coordinator, get a list, and make calls from home.
posted by heliostatic at 1:57 PM on February 13, 2010

as an election judge, i was given a handheld computer--a hp ipaq--that had all the registered voters in the county, and where they could vote in it, with an easy to use search engine.
posted by lester at 1:57 PM on February 13, 2010

Response by poster: @lester, what county (or state, if you'd rather, or neither if you'd rather not) are you in?
posted by heliostatic at 1:58 PM on February 13, 2010

MBrubeck, 2004 was when it was shown to be possible. 2008 is when it really hit its stride.

In 2004, Howard Dean did it. In 2008, everyone did it, and the amount of money raised was beyond belief.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:00 PM on February 13, 2010

Oh, another example: Obama had distributed phone banks. People would contact a coordinator, get a list, and make calls from home.

Totally. You didn't even have to speak to anyone personally- I signed up online through a campaign website, and made calls from home, first for Clinton and then for Obama. That's neat.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:06 PM on February 13, 2010

I worked on the Obama campaign. In my work, the most exciting thing was the voter file system:

Most progressive campaigns use a company called the Voter Activation Network to access and manage their voter files. This has been around since 2002 and was first used widely in 2004. But for the 2008 election, the Democratic Party had its own branded version called VoteBuilder. This is a web-based platform where you can access all the voters in a particular geographic area, and then slice and dice the file so that, for instance, if I wanted to find all the independents in a particular precinct between the ages of 18 and 35 who said they were leaning towards Obama, I could get that information in about 2 minutes. Considering that, less than 10 years ago, most campaigns relied on printouts of the voter file from the county elections office, this is a big deal.

Even cooler, though, was the software on VoteBuilder that made it exponentially easier to "cut turf" (ie, make route maps) for canvassing. As recently as the 2004 election, an organizer planning for a weekend doorknock would have to photocopy maps of the area they wanted to canvass, draw a line around the area the particular canvasser was assigned to, and then try their best to print out a list of names and addresses that had all the registered voters in that area, but only in that area (because if you give 3 people lists with people outside their area, at least one person will ignore your instructions to ignore the ones outside their area). You also would have to go through and count the number of households in a turf to make sure no turf had too many or too few houses. Cutting turf for a 20-person canvass could easily take all afternoon.

But the VoteBuilder had a google maps program that allowed you to simply draw a line around the area you wanted to canvass, and then the program would tell you how many people were in that area. Then it creates a document to print which contains a map and the list of people in that area. Easy! With this program, cutting turf for 20 people took a half hour, and gave us more time to work with volunteers. Or sleep.

/political geekery
posted by lunasol at 2:23 PM on February 13, 2010

Oh, another example: Obama had distributed phone banks. People would contact a coordinator, get a list, and make calls from home.

Yep, and towards the end of the primaries, the Obama campaign introduced a system where you could use your home computer and network as an automated dialer. The network would dial numbers for you, and when someone answered, their name shows up on your screen. Pretty cool.
posted by lunasol at 2:26 PM on February 13, 2010

Obama '08 is still on my iPhone, a testament either to its cultural significance or my laziness.
posted by thejoshu at 2:33 PM on February 13, 2010

Nate Silver's took polling analysis and statistics to a new, awesome level.
posted by sallybrown at 2:36 PM on February 13, 2010

Don't forget that thrilling "hologram" on CNN that for some inexplicable reason featured as a political commentator.

I got a shitload of text messages from the Obama campaign, and the throwaway email acct. I gave them still gets tons of spam.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 3:29 PM on February 13, 2010

Response by poster: I'm really interested in innovation in grassroots or unaffiliated efforts. More people were blogging, tweeting, posting videos, and that sort of thing than ever before. But what there must have been other things I'm not aware of also. All the examples so far are great!
posted by heliostatic at 3:32 PM on February 13, 2010

Obama bought a bunch of ads in Second Life. They were very cheap, but drastically boosted his name recognition amongst younger voters.
posted by KathrynT at 4:20 PM on February 13, 2010

Not related to a particular political campaign, but rather to the voting process itself:

I was a poll inspector (which means, basically, that I ran a local polling place and managed everything there, including the other volunteers) in Los Angeles during the November 2008 elections. For what I was told was the first time ever, every poll inspector in the city (maybe county?) of Los Angeles was given their own official cellphone by the Board of Elections to use to call in to report any voting problems or irregularities. The fact that we all had our own personal cellphones was immaterial. I believe the phones were pre-programmed with the BofE troubleshooter phone number. Basically, the city (county?) knew ahead of time that turnout would be heavy and they did not want to risk there being any problems with ballots, locations, ballot reader machine breakdowns, etc.

Also, part of our training courses for the poll inspector position were held online, on the Board of Elections website, including the final quiz we had to pass to become qualified to be an inspector.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:40 AM on February 15, 2010

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