Citizen Loop: Voter Engagement Through Mobile Feedback Loops

Citizen Loop: Voter Engagement Through Mobile Feedback Loops
Woman on cell phone

We recently put forward a proposal with the folks from The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and CiviCRM to the Knight Foundation News Challenge on Elections. The competition looks for creative ways to help engage citizens, strengthen participation and educate voters.

Our proposal is entitled “Citizen Loop - Enhancing Voter Engagement Through Mobile Feedback Loops”. The concept is relatively simple: an interactive voter engagement tool that increases participation through an automated, dynamic, text message feedback system providing information and helping citizens make a plan to vote.

We envision that the project would bolster voter education, registration, and mobilization by allowing groups to provide continuous feedback to potential voters from initial contact through casting of a ballot. The information relayed to citizens would encourage election-day “plan making”, a behavioral science approach which can lead to significant follow through on good intentions.

We would test Citizen Loop through voter engagement programs supporting Roma political participation in Bulgaria and Romania.  Similar to minority groups in the U.S. and other countries, Roma communities in Bulgaria and Romania face specific recurring election-related challenges and barriers to participation, including poor access to polling places, limited understanding of electoral processes, vote-buying, and voter intimidation. Near-ubiquitous use of SMS presents a largely untapped opportunity for civic organizers who seek to engage them.

Building on years of collaboration with the community behind CiviCRM, the premier free and open-source contact relationship management software used by civic groups in the U.S. and around the world, we recently led the successful integration of text-messaging functionality and supported its testing in multiple electoral contexts. We’ve also identified the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL), which leads the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition and its 866-OUR-VOTE hotline with more than 100 local, state, and national partners, as its main partner in the project. They are in a unique position to inform the design and content of the mobile feedback system given the depth and breadth of their knowledge on common voter inquiries.

We encourage you to take a look at our Knight Foundation proposal here and, if you like the idea, support us by commenting on the proposal!