Meeting the Challenge: Sacramento County’s SacVote Mobile Application

April is National County Government Month. During the month, CSAC is producing a series of videos and blog postings highlighting California Counties’ best practices. The programs we are spotlighting are recipients of our annual Challenge Awards, which recognize the innovative and creative spirit of California county governments as they find new and effective ways of providing programs and services to their citizens. The Challenge Awards provide California’s 58 counties an opportunity to share their best practices with counties around the state and nation. The Call for Entries for the 2014 CSAC Challenge Awards is being distributed this month; the entry deadline is June 27, 2014.

To watch a video about Sacramento County’s SacVote mobile application, click here.

I admit, there are times when I wish it was a little simpler to use my smart phone to just make a phone call. But for every time I struggle to find my way back to the keyboard, there are at least five times when I am thankful for this app, or that function that makes my life easier. What was the name of that restaurant again? Is it on 9th or 10th street? Where is the nearest gas station? Smart phones are supposed to make our lives easier with that type of information at our fingertips, and now thanks to the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters, your smart phone can even make it easier for you to participate as a voter!

Sacramento County Registrar of Voters Jill LaVine challenged her staff to develop a mobile app for voters. But her I-T staff had never developed an app before. They took some classes on their own time, learned some new skills and began putting them to use. The result is the SacVote App for IPhones and Androids. It can deliver a whole host of information to the voter who may not know where his polling place is, or who left her sample ballot at home. Eventually, the app could provide all the same information as the hardcopy voter information guides and sample ballots.

The Goal here is to let people easily access the information they need to vote—everything from candidate statements to the location of their polling place. But LaVine is also hopeful that SacVote can help bridge the digital divide. Many people who cannot afford a home computer do have a smart phone they use for internet access. Making more voter information available through the SacVote mobile app is an effective way to provide information to a population that can be difficult to reach in other ways and does not vote in large numbers.

LaVine says they are not quite ready to stop producing the hard-copy voter information they send out to registered voters, at least not yet. But people can already ask to get their voter information electronically, and she does envision a time in the not-too distant future when they may be able to do away with the expense of mailing hard copies all together. The SacVote App is a step in that direction.

About: Gregg Fishman:
Gregg Fishman is the Communications Coordinator for the California State Association of Counties.

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