Detail from the official White House website shown on an iPhone
Maybe your midterms vote got you the representative you want, maybe it didn’t. Yet whoever is now representing your district, you can see what they’re doing and you can make your voice heard throughout their term by using iOS apps and services.
So many more of us are now politically aware and active —some accounts say 114 million people voted this week compared to 83 million for the last midterms. You have to think that a lot of those extra 32 million people have iPhones and now is the time to download apps to keep that political engagement alive.
You would think that there would be one official Republican app and one official Democrat one, but there’s neither. At various times such as before their National Conferences or elections, each party will produce an app but they’re also good at removing them afterwards.
What the parties say is perhaps less useful than what they do, however, so there are independent apps that will collate statistical and news information.
There’s no nice way to say this, so let us just cut to the point. We have yet to find an app that is comprehensive, well-designed and also trustworthy. You can have two of those but so far not all three.
Trustworthy is mandatory, of course, and we want comprehensive so we’ve ended up with ones that aren’t great on design.
That doesn’t mean they’re unreadable, just that it can take you a time to figure out what information is available to you.
This is especially true with Countable. Its chief design problem is in how it has to handle a gigantic amount of information.
News pages from the Countable app
There are really two significant routes into the mass of political information that Countable holds and the main one is through your specifying exactly where you live.
You can add just a ZIP code but you’re likely to be told that’s not precise enough. If you then include a full street address Countable will return the names of your local representatives.
Thereafter, if you open the app and tap on a profile icon at top left, you get a menu that includes My Reps. Tap on that and you get the representatives with their affiliation. Tap on any one of them to get more specific information.
This is certainly comprehensive. Right from within Countable, you can phone, message or send a video message to your representative.
However, you can also then scroll down through a news feed showing every bill your representative voted on and how they voted. Tap again on that vote and you see summary of what was being debated.
You can similarly go straight to these votes through a Bills section which lists everything going on.
The other main way you may use Countable, though, is a Notifications section. This does do what you expect in that it controls what information you want the app to alert you about. However, it’s very detailed: you can pick from any or all of around 150 political topics you want to follow.
Countable is free on the App Store.
Our Voice USA is less stringent about you specifying exactly where you are. If you solely enter a ZIP code, it will tell you that there are many areas within it and so also many representatives. However, it then shows you them all so if you know your local area, you can get to the right information faster in this app.
Once you’re there, what it really wants to do is brief you on that representative. So right from their entry in the app, you can go to their Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Wikipedia entry or website.
The Our Voice USA app
You can also see users’ ratings of the politician. In theory that’s impressive because you get the overall figure but then a breakdown by the parties voters identify with plus what proportion of the vote comes from within the district or not.
In practice, we just kept find that nobody had voted to like a candidate.
It is about candidates
As the midterms just showed us, all elections can be about how the nation is run overall. They can be about specific issues. However, they are also always about individual politicians.
So while it can be more appealing to get overviews of certain topics, it’s the ability to see what a local politician is likely to do that makes having apps like these worthwhile.
Our Voice USA is free on the App Store.
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