Invasive 'Vote With Me' App Could Be an Effective GOTV Weapon for Democrats
An invasive new mobile app developed by former Obama appointees and pushed by Democrats to "nudge" fellow Democrats to the polls is creeping folks the heck out. But it could be the secret GOTV weapon that helps Democrats retake the House.
The app, Vote With Me, accesses every contact in the user's phone and shows their entire voting history, how they’re registered, and whether they’re eligible to vote in a swing district. It does this by syncing users’ phone contact lists with information from public voter files.
The app was tested last spring with stunning results.
“The whole purpose of the app is really to get your friends out to vote,” says Sarah Sullivan, a former senior writer for President Obama who is now deputy executive director of The New Data Project, a nonprofit founded last year that developed the app. “It’s about making sure that you’re prepared, and it’s about building trust.”
The nonprofit’s executive director is Mikey Dickerson, the former Google engineer who was the first head of the US Digital Service, or Obama’s “trauma team” that saved HealthCare.gov after Obamacare launched in 2013. When their terms as White House staffers ended on Inauguration Day in 2017, Dickerson, along with Sullivan and other members of the trauma team, decided to create the nonprofit.
This past spring, the team conducted a pre-launch randomized trial during Conor Lamb’s successful run for Congress and showed that texts sent through VoteWithMe were as much as 20 times more effective than stranger-to-stranger, “get out the vote” methods. The success of this trial encouraged the team to focus primarily on developing and releasing VoteWithMe in time for November’s critical election.
Shockingly, there is no expectation of privacy for anyone who is targeted by the app. Internet researcher "Rosie Memos" expressed dismay on Twitter after getting "bullied" at work by a user of the app:
Compliant Democrats are encouraged to use the information to nudge their contacts to vote. The app will actually write the text messages to their contacts for them.
The developers of Vote With Me wave off concerns that this is an invasion of privacy by saying that it's all public information.
While it may be true that the information is public, most people don't spend their spare time researching the voting habits of all their acquaintances. That would be super creepy and inappropriate. So is this app.