Election fever: 6 mobile apps that can keep you informed

USA Election 2012 doesn't quite live up to its claim of giving you "all the information you'll need to make an informed decision about who to vote for in the 2012 Presidential Election," but that doesn't mean it's not interesting and fun to use.

The app gathers an array of data to keep you up to date on the election, including the latest results from polls and primaries, fundraising totals and sources, and election news from a handful of media outlets on both the left and right, including ABC News, Fox News and MSNBC.

Because USA Election 2012 pulls in information from a variety of sources, some sections are more current than others. For example, fundraising stats and summaries come from the New York Times, which releases quarterly updates -- so the figures shown through late January were dated Sept. 30. (The numbers have since been updated with the campaigns' official totals from Dec. 31.)

The news feeds are, of course, updated every few minutes, and the poll info, which is obtained from various polling agencies, is updated daily. On election nights (including primaries), USA Election 2012 is updated approximately every 15 minutes, according to the developer, Kurt Sparks.

There's also a section for the latest economic indicators such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and weekly jobless claims, and you can compare those stats with the same data from previous dates of your choosing -- last month, last year, 20 years ago. It's interesting information, but I don't quite follow how it's supposed to help me choose which candidate to vote for.

Finally, there's an interactive electoral map of the 50 states, colored red or blue by default based on whether they swung Republican or Democratic in the 2008 election. You can change the affiliation of any state (including making it Independent) to see how its electoral votes might affect the outcome of this year's election. Sparks promises more map options before the November elections, and says he's "toying with the idea of allowing the user to share their election night scenarios via social media or email."

Push notifications to alert users to new election info, more detailed campaign finance information, more news sources and full iPad support will also be added this year, says Sparks.

I did encounter one or two small annoyances, such as the app repeatedly asking for permission to access Twitter accounts when I clicked on news stories. (I meant it when I said no the first time -- please don't keep asking me!) But overall the app worked smoothly and mostly glitch-free.

Bottom line

While not quite as complete as it claims to be (summaries of where the candidates stand on key issues would be nice), USA Election 2012 does gather a wealth of election-related info. If you're undecided or simply want to follow the election in one convenient place, it's 99 cents well spent.

--Valerie Potter



Price: Free

OS reviewed: Android

Other OSes: None

Some people bemoan the polarization of political discourse these days. Others seem to revel in it, enjoying the adrenaline rush that comes with virtually shouting your opinions at those who disagree with you. If you're in the latter camp -- or if you harbor an optimistic idea that you can help make the level of discourse more intelligent and intelligible -- then you may want to try out VoterMap.

VoterMap is part of a group of apps built on a location-based application called YodaMap, which shares geotagged, anonymous posts via Google Maps. The idea is simple: You start a conversation on a topic (in this case, the upcoming elections) by typing text into an entry form; you can also record or attach a video or photo, or make an audio recording.

Your entry is geotagged to your location. Each entry is marked on a Google map by a blue flag. Click on a flag, and you can see (via a text bubble) how many other users have approved or disapproved the entry, how many comments have been added and how long ago the original entry appeared. There is also a button that is apparently meant to translate comments from one language to another, but it wasn't working when I tested the app.

Click again, and you can read the entire entry and the thread of comments it has generated. You can then register your own approval or disapproval, add a comment, or share the entry. You can also approve or disapprove specific comments.

It's a nice idea -- another way to encourage conversation on a topic -- and I like the idea that I can see what people are saying in other parts of the country (or the world). But for the most part, the conversation tends to remain on the "Sez you!" level, although I did find one or two reasonable threads. And, as with many social networking venues, there are a few users who seem to enjoy being a disruptive influence by inserting their rather vehement opinions into as many conversations as they can.

I'm also a little leery of how private these conversations really are. You are identified only by your general location (unless you choose to be more exact), but it is simple to zoom in on any entry to street level; considering how volatile some of these conversations get, I'd prefer that the maps didn't go down to quite that level of detail.

Bottom line

That said, if you're the type of person who likes to get into the thick of political discussion, VoterMap may be your cup of tea.

--Barbara Krasnoff

This story, "Election fever: 6 mobile apps that can keep you informed" was originally published by Computerworld.

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