An App to Get Out and Monitor the Vote

Every vote matters

Key Takeaways

  • The new My Vote Counts app encourages citizens to vote and tries to track fraud.
  • The app provides voting information and anonymously tracks submitted ballots.
  • The app is intended to reassure voters during an anxious election season, the developer says.
Colourful overlapping silhouettes of people voting in USA elections
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A new app aims to encourage people to vote while attempting to monitor voting fraud and intimidation just in time for next month’s contentious presidential election. 

My Vote Counts provides information about the voting process and allows users to share their voting experience on social media. It provides data about polling places, registration, and mail-in voting procedures, and sends notifications when important deadlines are approaching. The app can also tally suspected cases of voter fraud and intimidation. 

"Maybe I'm in a place where I feel intimidated," David Henkel-Wallace, one of the app’s creators, said in an email interview. "Maybe there are people carrying guns or something like that. The important thing is to try and capture that knowledge right at the spot so you can intervene. But even if not, we start to get a picture of how the voting process is rolling out, or maybe not rolling out."

Privacy is the Priority

My Vote Counts has been downloaded about 500,000 times, Henkel-Wallace said. It’s open-source, but to maintain privacy the app doesn’t request that users provide identifying information other than the state they live in.

The app is being released amidst growing fears of voter intimidation during the presidential election. President Trump recently called for the far-right group the Proud Boys to "stand by" during voting. Democrats claim such remarks and the sight of heavily armed civilians at rallies could prevent some people from voting.

"The important thing is to try and capture that knowledge right at the spot so you can intervene."

"The Republican Party has had a history of engaging in activities that are designed to diminish people’s participation rather than increase it," said Angelo Genova, a Democratic Party lawyer. Trump’s "rhetoric strongly suggests that the strategy is alive and well, and it has high potential to be manifest in this election," he added. Republican party officials have said that their poll monitors will be "respectful and polite" and obey the law.

Henkel-Wallace and his partners put the app together in just a few months as concerns grew about the election.

"We thought it would be useful to build something independent of the election system to help give people some faith that when they did vote [it] might really be counted," he said. 

Getting Social

The main goal of the app is to boost voter participation, Henkel-Wallace explained. One feature of My Vote Counts is that it lets you announce to your social network your intention to vote.

"Studies have shown that people who make a public commitment to do something often are more likely to go through with that commitment," he said. "And that helps increase the sense of civic engagement."

A low angle view of a long line of people waiting to vote in the elections.
SDI Productions / Getty Images

The app could help raise a warning if there are signs of voting fraud, as many are afraid discarded ballots will not be counted. My Vote Counts can provide a "cross-check" because it will give a rough idea of how many people voted in a particular location. 

Reassuring voters about the integrity of election results is also a priority for the app. Users can scan their ballots and anonymously upload them to a secure website where they can be tracked later if questions arise. 

"It will give people some concrete evidence that the votes that were counted for roughly match what people said in the app," Henkel-Wallace added.

"We thought it would be useful to build something independent of the election system..."

My Vote Counts joins a growing number of digital tools intended to give information about this year’s elections. Other choices include BallotReady, which gives information about the candidates at the federal, state, and local levels.

There’s also the Vote.org site, which gives information about a range of issues, including where to vote and what to do about voter intimidation. Vote 411 gives personalized voting information to users who fill in a form on the site, including data on absentee ballots.

Apps, however well-designed, seem unlikely to be able to monitor the hundreds of millions of votes expected to be cast in the coming weeks. But during this turbulent political season, every little bit helps.