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New mobile app encourages voting in Iowa

BY MATT STARNS | OCTOBER 11, 2012 6:30 AM

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Officials say a new app for smart phones and the iPad produced through the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office will help put tools and information at voters’ fingertips during the election season.

“I don’t think there’s another app in the country that does as much as this does for voting,” Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz told The Daily Iowan. “A couple other states have an app, but they didn’t do all the stuff I think an app should do in order to give that information to voters.”

The Iowa Secretary of State Election App, announced Monday by Schultz, allows voters to find their polling place, check whether they have registered to vote, request and track absentee ballots, and contact election officials. It also allows users to report voter fraud and contains a calendar of election events.

Schultz said his office plans to keep the calendar updated long past November’s election, making the app a perpetual resource for voters.

“The election calendar is by year, so we will update that for any general, any primary, any city and school elections,” he said.

Johnson County Auditor Tom Slockett said the app might help drive public interaction with his office.

“We have good communication with the public already through our website,” he said. “But any increase will be welcome.”

Slockett added he felt the ubiquitous nature of smart phones in the community — especially within the University of Iowa student population — might help the app contribute to an increase in communication.

Johnson County Supervisor Pat Harney said he felt the app’s ease-of-access to information will be beneficial but won’t completely streamline some parts of the voting process.

“Any additional accessibility to the voting information and the ballots is fine,” he said. “[But] they still have to come to the Auditor’s Office for processing.”

Harney added he felt, however, that more paths to information in the public eye won’t hurt.

“Any information out there is very good,” he said. “We want to make it accessible.”

UI sophomore Matt Hasakis said the app might particularly appeal to students.

“I think it’s something that’s going to be easy to use, and a lot of students like that,” he said, adding he felt the mobile app might be more convenient than a website.

Slockett said the app, though convenient, may lack some of the features of his office’s website — including a printable absentee ballot request. He said, however, that the app’s level of convenience should raise voter participation and communication with the office.

“I hope there will be an increase, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was,” he said. 

But above all, Schultz said the app is a step in the right direction for Iowa voters.

“I think this is the future,” he said. “I’m proud that Iowa is on the cutting edge.”


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