Big Data

How to track and report polling place problems on Election Day

Election-tracking nonprofit Ushahidi will use SMS, social media, and email to connect citizens with vetted volunteers and lawyers to monitor the upcoming US election.

ushahidiusmap.png
Image: Ushahidi

On Election Day—Tuesday, November 8—prepare to testify.

High-power, low-cost mobile phones are ubiquitous, enabling voters to consume infinite news feeds of election information, and to chatter using text messages, post status updates. Ushahidi wants to crowdsource the horsepower of a digitally-enabled electorate to monitor the upcoming election.

Swahili for 'testimony,' Ushahidi is a nonpartisan, nonprofit election data platform with a strong pedigree of election monitoring everywhere from western democracies, to remote regions in Africa. To help citizens report voting troubles during the US election, Ushahidi created several mobile applications, and a map that tracks troubles in real-time. The tool is a part of the organization's Responder plan, and allows anyone with a phone or internet access to report polling place issues to a team of vetted volunteers.

"The [project] goal is to create a place where citizens can report on their experience voting, even if it goes perfectly, and most importantly if there is an issue that they experience or witness," said Chief Operating Officer Nathaniel Manning. "Ushahidi is valuable in that it reaches people where they already are, in SMS, email, Twitter, and web. Our hope is to simply bring more transparency and trust to an already very well run election process."

SEE: Enterprise encryption: Trends, strategic needs, and best practices (Tech Pro Research report)

Election Tech

Visualizing the Russian cyberattack

Cybersecurity experts explain how the data breach happened, and Twitter chatter reveals what competing social media factions are saying about the election hack.

The platform was born in the aftermath of Kenya's controversial 2007 election, and enables crisis response, election monitoring, civic engagement, and human rights reporting in hard-to-reach locations. "Ushahidi's mission is the build and use technology to help disadvantaged people raise their voice, and those who serve them to listen and respond better," said Manning Ushahidi's tools have been used over 110,000 thousand times in more than 160 countries by organizations as diverse as the United Nations, the US State Department, the Red Cross, Google.org, NGOs, and governments.

WATCH: How consumers are reacting to campaign 2016 (CBS News)

The negative tenor of the 2016 campaign inspired the creation of the election monitoring tool. "As one of the candidates campaigns' began to cast doubt on the election process," Manning explained, "particularly in the third debate, and as more conversation in the media began to consider or discuss violence on election day, we felt, as fairly experienced creators of election monitoring software, that we had to deploy our software ourselves for this election.

To help with reporting, Ushahidi partnered with the Election Protection Coalition to escalate issues to a team of trained election-monitoring lawyers around the country. "We want to stress that USA Election Monitor is not a formal election monitoring effort run by the state or a campaign," said Manning. "Formal monitors in the US do an incredible job, and are extremely well-trained. The key value of Ushahidi is that it allows any regular citizen to report about their experience voting."

Use Ushahidi's Election Tools:

Read more

About Dan Patterson

Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox