Social media shows up at the polls
Mobile apps and social media gave voters a leg up

By Andrew Lyman / CJ 475 Reporter
Posted Dec. 6, 2012

While many people keep their noses buried in their phones or laptops, the recent election in Bernalillo County proved that social media and mobile applications, or apps, can be useful for more than letting the world know what you had for dinner.

Technology helps voting go smoothly
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By Andrew Lyman

Is Bernalillo ahead of the curve?

This year, the Bernalillo County Clerk's office engaged in a social media campaign aimed at getting more young people to vote. Part of that campaign was implementing a mobile app that allowed voters to monitor wait times at various voting centers. County Clerk Maggie Toulouse Oliver also used Twitter to send out updates on early voting numbers and where wait times were longer.

The goal of using social media and the voting app was to reach younger voters who tend to be more mobile. While her presence on Twitter and the use of a voting app may paint Toulouse in a more technological light, she does not consider herself an expert in social media.

"I'm kind of a luddite, I'm always kind of late to the game in terms of social media and things like that," she said.

Since Bernalillo County began using voting centers, voters are no longer required to vote at specific locations. Toulouse said the ability to gather live data from each of the voting centers allowed her to relay that information to the public through both the app and social media. With the change from precinct voting to voting centers, informing the public became a priority.

Especially when you're implementing something new, that's going to change and directly impact everybody. It's really important to get the word out," Toulouse said.

While she admits there are more technological improvements to be made in terms of voting machines themselves, Toulouse said Bernalillo County is in line with other municipalities when it comes to technology and voting.

Although, Toulouse said Bernalillo County is not leading the way in terms of technology in elections, it seems to be ahead of Santa Fe County. Voters there stuck to tradition precinct voting.

In order to get voting information out, the Santa Fe County Clerk's office used local newspapers and handed out information cards. There was no online presence other than the county's website. The explanation for that has to do with demographics according to Denise Lamb, the chief deputy clerk for Santa Fe County's Bureau of Elections. She said there has not been a demand for more Internet presence from residents. They have not moved to vote centers like Bernalillo County, largely because it's less convenient. Lamb said most of the people that live in the northern part of the county would have to drive around 20 miles to get to the nearest voting center. When it comes to social media, many people just don't use it.

"Their idea of social media is getting in their car and driving to the polling place," Lamb said.

Matthew Reichbach, editor and online publisher of the New Mexico Telegram, was covering the elections at KNME, Albuquerque's PBS station. He said it is hard to follow just one person on Twitter, especially during elections, but he still used it to gather information. Using a laptop, a mobile phone and a mobile tablet he kept up to date on voting issues.

"That's the kind of thing I wouldn't have been able to do five years ago. There wouldn't have been a Twitter, not everyone had text messaging," he said.

As for updated voting machines, Reichbach said more technology is not always better. While he utilized electronics to stay up to date, he likes paper ballots over computer screens.

"It's safer," he said, "It's not as technologically advanced, maybe it takes a little bit longer, but it's a lot harder to do voter fraud with pieces of paper that you have to fill in."