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An App To Engage Voters #NYC2013

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The city hopes to get more people engaged in this year's pivotal election with a new web app that aims to benefit both campaigns and voters.

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The web app, named NYC Votes, will streamline campaign donations and also serve as a resource on candidates and the election.

NYC Votes Candidate Contribution ScreenAn early version of the software was demoed at a public hearing last night where developers showed a simple interface that included a step-by-step process for making donations.

The software draws from the city's campaign finance data and is expected to be released in two weeks. It will be available on most browser-enabled devices, including phones and tablets.

"We started from the premise of creating a much more seamless, end-to-end experience for participants in the voting process," said Art Chang, the chairman of the Voter Assistance Advisory Committee of the city's Campaign Finance Board, which held the hearing and is in charge of developing the software.

The initial goal of the tool, Chang said, was to make "life easier for candidates, for constituents and for the CFB's audit staff," particularly surrounding small donations.

The city's 6-to-1 public matching system is designed to encourage a broad spectrum of people to contribute in small amounts; a $10 donation, for instance, could be worth as much as $70. In 2009, contributions of $175 or less made up nearly 70 percent of all contributions, according to the CFB.

"In the past these contributions have caused a lot of headaches," said Chang, whose firm lent a project manager to the app effort.

NYC Votes overcomes this by handling the credit card processing while also verifying addresses for compliance, enabling virtually any candidate to start taking plastic.

A magnet card swipe reader can also be used with the software, so that even campaign staffers at fundraising events can use their mobile devices to record contributions.

While initially aimed at helping campaigns to deal with donations, developers say they plan to add features in the coming months that will allow voters to find and research candidates; interact over social media; localize their ballot; and get elections results.

The app was developed by the VAAC with the assistance of partners from the city's civic-oriented tech developer community, including Pivotal Labs and Method. TekServe, an Apple sales specialist, has agreed to help candidates get swiping technology working on their devices.

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