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Johnson County unveils new voting app

BY NICHOLAS MOFFITT | OCTOBER 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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If you don't know where the nearest voting location is, there's an app for that.

The Johnson County Auditor’s Office released the app Go Vote Johnson County to the public on Monday with around three weeks left before local elections.

The app allows people to locate satellite voting locations in Johnson County if they click the vote-now button on the app.  It then gives them directions from their current location or a desired address, Deputy Auditor of Elections Kingsley Botchway said.

“Everything’s going to an app right now, everybody wants to use an app, so this was the next best thing,” he said.

The app also allows people to see what satellite locations are occurring in the future and the times they are open, as well as adding an event to the phone calendar to remind them of the time and place the voter chooses.

Getting students to vote is one goal Botchway said the Auditor’s Office had in mind when it developed the app.

“[The Auditor’s Office was] talking about ways to get people to their polling locations and satellite voting locations and also incorporating students as well,” he said.

The app took around a month to come to fruition after Botchway introduced the idea following a conference with state, county, and municipal auditors.

One feature allows easier access for the diverse Iowa City community by including three languages: English, Spanish, and Arabic.

County Auditor Travis Weipert and Botchway said the feedback they have received has been overwhelmingly positive, which they are glad to hear just a few days after the launch.

“Feedback from the public — they love it,” Weipert said. “From the other auditors in the state, they’re jealous.”

The idea of an app had previously come up in Johnson County, but because of the cost of development, Weipert said, it had to be tabled.

This time around, the price was right for the office to create the app.

“When we saw the cost and then met with the developer, we were off,” Weipert said.

The budget for the app cost around $2,000, but the cost may be increased if they decide to add more languages to the app, Weipert said.

He said the app should eventually bring savings for the county because as more information is available on resources such as the app, fewer temporary positions will have to be created to answer phones or do work in the Auditor’s Office.

Tim Box, a deputy auditor for Linn County, said Linn County has a similar tool, but it is a web-based application.

The Johnson County app, he said, is something Linn County officials will definitely look into. Box also said students like technology being integrated in such things as elections.

“Students think it’s cool that we’re using the technology that they’re using,” he said.

The new app is only available right now on the Google Play Store for Android devices, but an iPhone friendly version is coming soon, Botchway said.

Android was easier to work with and get an app up quickly on the store because the idea was hatched so close to the election, he said. An iPhone version will take until after this year’s November election, he said, but it will be available in the future.

The launch in Johnson County came just after an app release on Oct. 8 from the Iowa secretary of State that allows voters to find polling places, request absentee ballots, track their ballot, and report voter fraud, according to a release.

“Being in a college town, we hope we’ll start to see students download the app and get out and start voting,” Weipert said.


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