Election Badges, Vote by Check-In and Twitter Bubbles

It may not be quite as big a deal as the presidential elections in 2008, when Barack Obama’s campaign team used social media and social networks to mobilize supporters and win the White House, but the mid-term state elections happening tomorrow have some of their own social tools — including a special Foursquare badge, a Facebook “get out the vote” challenge, and a geo-location app for tracking voter interest. There’s also a cool Twitter visualization from the programmer-journalists at the New York Times and an analysis of whether the number of Twitter followers a candidate has can predict who will win the election.

Foursquare maps: As we’ve noted before, the location-based service has been gradually extending its virtual game-world of badges and achievements into the real world, and the special election badge it has created is another example. But it’s not just a badge — Foursquare is planning to track activity and display it in real time on a map, and says it sees the mid-term elections as a kind of training ground for the national elections in 2012.

Vote with a check-in: GeoPollster is another election visualization app based on Foursquare: You select which political party you currently support, and then each time you “check in” at a Foursquare venue, GeoPollster counts your check-in as a vote for that party. The site then tracks votes across the various states based on activity. Obviously this isn’t likely to correlate with actual voting patterns, but it does produce funny headlines like “Democrats seize control of LL Bean outlet in Pittsburgh.”

Challenge your friends! Organizing for America has a Facebook app called The Commit to Vote Challenge that is aimed at getting people to publicly display their intention to vote, and to challenge their friends and acquaintances to vote as well. According to the site, the average user who commits to vote via the app has passed along the message to 10 of their friends, and nearly a third of those who have committed to vote and provided a reason for it are first-time voters.

Twitter bubble view: The programmers at the New York Times have done some fascinating data visualization in the past, and this time they have come up with a real-time view of Twitter activity that looks at tweets that come from, are directed to and are about each of the candidates. Bubbles grow and shrink depending on the volume of activity. What does it mean? We’re not sure, but it’s fun to watch. The Washington Post has also bought the hashtag #election as a “promoted trend,” Twitter said in a blog post.

[inline-pro-content] Do followers = voters? Dan Zarrella, a social-marketing researcher, looked at the official Twitter accounts for 30 senate, governor and house of representatives candidates, and then correlated the number of followers with the performance of those specific candidates in early polls. In more than 70 percent of cases, the candidate with the most followers was also ahead in the polls. Of course, this suffers from the “correlation vs. causation” problem — did the leaders get more followers because they were leading, or were they leading because they had more followers? Klout has come up with a similar ranking of candidates based on their Twitter influence score.

Get local: Not to be left out of the action, Google (s goog) has a mobile app/website that will show you where your polling station is and keep you up to date on any news related to your area. And we wrote recently about a Senate candidate whose programmer son came up with an election game that uses Facebook Places check-ins as way of encouraging people to get out and vote. Fred Trotter said that he hoped using social networks would help the U.S. move away from a brand of politics based on heavily financed interest groups and polarized viewpoints on the major issues.

We’re not sure whether that will actually happen or not, but it looks as though the “gamification” of elections is increasing, for better or worse — so go out and get your badge.

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