Monday, August 6, 2012

Short Code Shortcut

Well, tomorrow's the big day, election day!

Of course, it's our sixth election this year.  So, on the seventh, I'm guessing we can rest.

This is a time we try to promote a feature that I wish would go national.  I think it's a great service and I've wished for years something like this would be featured in USA Today or on Google.

Both of these organizations have short codes, which are short phone numbers for text messages.

My little dream in 2007 was that voters would text "VOTE" to a short code and get a response back with their polling place location.

I peddled this idea to anyone who would listen and learned in the process that short codes were very expensive.

We found Kansas City company Textcaster, whom we already used for text messaging updates, owned a short code, 74574.  They were excited about creating this concept, but "VOTE" was taken.  One of their customers is Sonic Drive-In and if we shared this short code, they owned "VOTE."

So, we went to KSVOTE, as well as VOTEKS, and developed the service ourselves.  By ourselves, I really mean a very smart employee at the Election Office, in conjunction with Textcaster.

In 2008, we rolled it out, mostly to yawns of, "What's a short code?"

In 2010, it gained some momentum, and I think it's time is arriving in 2012.

Voters text "VOTEKS" then a space, then their street address, a space, and their zipcode to 74574.  In 30 seconds or so, the polling place info comes back.

What a great resource for voters if it were mainstream!  And, I'd enjoy a misty moment being able to say, "It was my idea."

For now, though, I'm hoping this catches some Johnson County voters and they find the tool helpful.


Thomas C. said...

I think this is a terrific idea. The only possible improvement I could see to make it more affordable would be to place the costs on the states for the major elections. The difference would be that you would also be required to enter your county abbreviation as well as your two digit state code. Text help to VOTEVA and a list of all the county codes would be texted back for that state (Virginia). Then you could text your address to VOTEVAPG (&youraddress) for Page County Virginia. The voting location would then be returned via text. This could be implemented country wide with each state or federal government funding the cost potentially eliminating enough other notification costs to make up the difference.