LP’s New “Get Out The Vote” Tool

BallotBase.org screenshotThere had been talk of it for a while, and it’s good to see that the LP is finally taking some strategic cues from the DNC and GOP and has created a shared voter database — BallotBase.org — that any campaign should easily tap into with very little effort and has successfully tested it in the wild with great beta results:

The Ballot Base had already received some attention before it was officially launched. A test run of the new political tool was performed in California’s 50th Congressional District, where Libertarian Paul King was running for the seat vacated by Duke Cunningham. King was opposed by Republican Brian Bilbray and Democrat Francine Busby. The LP’s new Ballot Base helped the Libertarian candidate to more than triple his number of votes.

Because of the disparity between his primary and his special election vote totals, a writer at the Web site Democratic Underground noted that something seemed amiss. The popular site Huffington Post ran an article suggesting a Diebold conspiracy was the reason that King received significantly more votes than Libertarian candidates in neighboring districts. In reality, it was Ballot Base.

If we’ve got tools powerful enough to get the opposition crying foul about conspiracy theories, we’re doing something right.

Austin Cassidy also covered this yesterday on Third Party Watch, but I just want to reiterate/clarify a comment I made over there:

This is one of those tools that may be ugly as sin, but will end up making the LP a contender in many races. Most casual observers don’t realize how important current databases of voter rolls, but believe me, the GOP and DNC are more than equiped in this arena (ever wonder why you get a crapload of mail right before an election? this is why).

It’ll be interesting to see how the sharing works and if state parties will actually jump into this (I have a race here in OH that I’d like to use this for, but LPO will have to buy the data from the SOS first).

I do stand by saying it’s ugly as sin… hopefully someone with design skills will send them a mockup of a better version to pique their interest. If the process for tapping in is as simple as signing up then this should be a boon for campaigns, but I’m hoping it doesn’t require state parties to commit a lot of extra money buying voter rolls, because I can imagine quite a few will balk at it simply out of resistance to anything new that requires effort.

Regardless, if you’ve ever wondered how you can help campaigns in your area, one way would be to go ahead and sign up (well, if you can… it appears that functionality is totally borked, at least for Firefox users).

23 Comments
  1. interesting, but could somebody ask the LP what the hell a “donar” is? Is it like sonar but only better? Or did they make the web page half english, half spanish in an effort to reach out to the growing hispanic population?

  2. yeah doesnt work on Safari or Firefox for Mac either. grrr. it was obviously built upon PC centric principles that it will not compromise.

  3. Well, either way I for one just signed up as well. No login info just yet… we’ll see if it works for my Firefox.

    Although I’m willing to break out the IE for this. :)

  4. The site is not for the general public, so functionality is more important than look. It is CSS driven, so the design can be easily changed.

    The project has not been fully released, so many features are disabled right now, including registration. That will change very soon.

    I gather from the comment about “donar” that there is a typo, but I can’t see it. Someone may have already corrected the article in error.

    I am concerned about your report of Safari issues. Most of the work is done using Firefox on a FreeBSD system (KDE). The CSS is tested using IE and Firefox on Windows 98/2K/XP, as well as Firefox on FreeBSD, Ubuntu and Knoppix.

    The developer (me) willingly accepts all comments regarding compatibility and will certainly look into Safari issues if you can give me more information. ([email protected])

    We are only two months into this project. It WILL be changing as we get input. To be honest, the visual look is not important right now, but compatability issues are.

  5. Interesting that Huffington Post wants to try and say that Diebold would send extra votes to Libertarians. What utter stupidity. Those fools will come up with anything to try and make a point, no matter how illogical or absurd.

  6. A short follow-up:

    Meant to say compatibility not compatability. I’ve been accused of writing great code, but sometimes I need to drink more coffee before trying to write e-mail messages late at night.

    I’m probably also the person who wrote donar instead of donor, but I will NOT be the primary editor of the site once it has been turned over to the LNC staff.

    And I’m sure that someone will suggest a better design at some point. I am a programmer not a graphic artist, so I accept “ugly as sin” as a positive comment. It could have been MUCH worse. :)

  7. How is this different from Advokit, which is free and open source? In other words, how much is Stewart being paid to reinvent the wheel, and how much is innovation?

    The advantage of advokit is that anyone can use it locally, not depend on a central LP server, and a closed source programmer who needs to drink more coffee (grin)

  8. I had never heard of Advokit until reading your comment. Looking at their site, I can tell you that while we have some features in common, what the LP calls ballot base is significantly different and far more advanced than what Advokit does.

    This comment is certainly not intended as a slight of Advokit, and I would ask that you reserve judgement until you see what the entire system is designed to do. The call center and campaign management are only a small part of the project.

    The system that runs ballot base has existed since the late 1990s and has been used in campaigns since 2000. If anyone is “reinventing” the wheel, it would not be me. :)

    As far as what I’m being paid, I will respectfully choose to not respond. You may, of course, obtain the information from the LP FEC filings, and if you do you will be surprised at how small the amount is. Since the software already exists and is owned by an LLC, it was NOT legal to simply “give” it to the party.

  9. I must say that the time frame for implementing this project would have made it impossible for volunteers to undertake it.

    My company is finishing several other projects that are in their final stages, but we are not undertaking any other projects during this election cycle and have placed the development of our primary product (which is NOT political in nature) on hold to make sure that this project is successful.

    Trust me when I say that the fee for the entire project is about what I could earn in just a week or two on some projects that have now been turned down. That’s not ego, just simple fact.

    Open source does not mean free. Someone would still have to install the system, convert data, customize the system to LP needs and then support it. That would be slower and much more expensive than the route taken.

    And, like most other activists, I will most likely end up making personal donations back to the party that are more than the small fee my company is charging.

  10. Stewart, I meant no offense to you. As someone who has planned on using Advokit as needed, I was more curious what they were paying for (not just the amount, though of course, that too)

    I’ll reverse judgement on what it provides compared to advokit when it’s possible to put the 2 side by side.

    Say what you want about the progressives, they are writing good open source software for campaigning. The software itself is value neutral.

    Am I to understand that this is going to a server side app, on a server owned by the LP, and you are providing an install of the software, ie a license. Mind telling us the details of that license? duration?

  11. I certainly wasn’t offended. I’ve been programming professionally for 30 years and I understand and appreciate the value of open source. The Internet would not exist without the free versions of Unix (my favorite being FreeBSD), Linux, and my language of preference since 1994: PERL.

    Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to discuss any contract details. I also cannot discuss features in a public forum. My original post was made because I was told that someone had reported a compatibility issue here, which I will investigate.

    I can say that I have been informed by LNC staff (yes, at 1am on a Friday evening) that they have a brand new Mac in the office and we will test the site on it.

    Your state party DB admin will also be able to get you answers to questions that I cannot discuss in a public forum. My e-mail address is [email protected] and I will gladly answer any questions that I am permitted to, and direct you to sources who can help with any questions I can’t answer.

  12. Well, it simply does not work on my dual G5 here. Cant register at all on any mac browser I have ( Safari, Firefox, Camino, all latest versions.

    I’ll check the PC next.

  13. Ahhh…so you problem isn’t a compatibility issue, but simply that you couldn’t register.

    There was a problem and it has now been fixed. The block of text from the front page telling you to contact the LNC is now on the registration page.

    Thank you for pointing this out. It would probably make life easier for hammeroftruth and its administrator if you directed any comments about other problems with the ballot base directly to our help desk: [email protected]

  14. Oh, and Lex, I don’t remember them forcing you to sign up, and there is no indication the information will be used for anything but its intended purpose.
    I’d say they are respecting your right to privacy just fine. Heck, they are only asking for an e-mail address, if that’s all you want to give.

  15. … I can’t register for this on Firefox or on IE. … ?

    I’ve tried repeatedly. Is there supposed to be a function which sends you a login id, or… ?

    The website indicates that “anyone can register” … but apparantly I’m not anyone.

  16. Really does WFM – are you blocking cookies maybe? Perhaps you should set them to allow session for that site, or something.
    Some sites are kind of silly like that.

  17. The site does not use cookies. If you read the text on the registration page you will see that you have to contact the LNC to register right now.

    The site is announced, but not completely live yet. Self-registration will be available shortly.

  18. My thanks to the editors for white-listing my address. I guess I type too fast and I caused my previous messages to be dumped by the system.

    I’m sure that most of you have stopped following this thread by now, but if you are and have questions now or in the future about the ballot base project please bring them forward.

    Yes, Libertarians respect privacy. That’s one of the cornerstones of ballot base. If someone objects to being contacted, we’ll stop. My personal experience has been that the “other guys” do not. I’ve gotten two or three or even more calls from different people from the same campaign — to my CELL PHONE — after having told them to stop calling.

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