During the final stretch of the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, a number of different media organizations set up different kinds of maps to track real-time activities at the polls. Wired.com, for example, set up a voting machine problem map where voters could use a ZeeMap we had set up to tell us what went wrong in their experience.
Fast-forward to 2010. Foursquare, the mobile social geolocation service, has teamed up with Google, Pew, a couple of get-out-the-vote groups and a couple of Washington DC-based technology and design firms to update that idea.
The coalition recently launched its “I Voted” project, which enables iPhone Foursquare users to broadcast the fact that they voted to their friends, and to report what it was like, and whether there were problems like long lines or voter intimidation.
The idea is to harness the attributes of peer pressure and political campaigns’ competitive spirit to spur more people to actually vote. Another side benefit of this project is that it could potentially uncover trending problems at polling places.
On election day itself, all the data emanating from this activity on Foursquare will stream to an online map to give people a big-picture portrait.
The project so far is an experiment. It started off as an idea being batted around between some young political technology consultants on Twitter this June.
Mindy Finn, a co-founder of EngageDC, one of the participants that set up this project, sees the application’s use this election day as a dry run for the 2012 presidential election. Political campaigns could possibly use it to ignite socially-inspired viral voting campaigns.
“We’re certainly not at critical mass right now,” Finn said. “But the potential for this type of social voting, and the use of geolocation services to encourage civic engagement, the potential is just huge.”