Clinton Team Will Help You With Your Polling Place Problems

Voting is not particularly user-friendly. Between the patchwork of voter identification laws, new limits to early voting, and the sometimes hours-long lines that snake around polling stations, it’s little wonder that President Obama recently noted, “We’re the only advanced democracy in the world that makes it harder for people to vote.”

Which is why this year, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has set up its own customer service shop, nicknamed VoPro Digital Hotline, aimed at answering voters’ questions as they make their way to the polls. Voters can submit a question by Tweeting at @HFA on Twitter, posting on Clinton’s Facebook page, or by texting QUESTION to 47246, and a team of more than 50 staffers and volunteers will be on hand to answer.

The feature, which is modeled after airline customer service programs, launched on November 1st, and so far, according to Clinton’s digital outreach director Jessica Morales Rocketto, the team has had 70,000 interactions with voters, the majority of which involve telling them where their polling places are. A whopping 20,000 questions came in on Saturday, and Rocketto says, “We anticipate that to climb exponentially.”

Clinton’s team also has voting rights lawyers on hand, to help address any instances of voter intimidation or questions the volunteers and staffers can’t answer. There’s no shortage of voter protection services out there. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP, and other groups run their own hotlines. Meanwhile, ProPublica, Google, and a coalition of news organizations have launched ElectionLand, a mini-news group dedicated to covering voting irregularities.

All of those tools are useful, but Rocketto says the goal of VoPro is to “meet people where they are,” which is to say, online. The Clinton campaign—and the Trump campaign—already have plenty of ways to digitally reach out to people who are already in their networks. They can send push notifications through their respective apps or blast out text messages to anyone who’s ever opted in. But VoPro flips the script, allowing voters to reach out directly to the campaign.

Rocketto’s team has also been mining social media for keywords, including “long lines” or “where do I vote,” that might help lead them to voters in need. When they find these people, the Clinton team responds, sometimes to get more information from the voter, and sometimes, just to offer moral support.

Of course, as we’ve seen in many a Twitter Q&A gone awry, trolls can sometimes get the better of attempts to crowdsource questions on social media. It’s especially risky given Donald Trump has a particularly prolific army of bots already spamming some of these platforms. Rocketto acknowledges “there’s a lot of noise,” but she says the campaign is working with an outside vendor to help surface the highest quality questions.

Still, there’s no way to tell whether or not the people the VoPro team is helping are among Clinton’s target audience. For all the talk of data’s ability to help campaigns target voters more efficiently, this is still a relatively scattershot effort by the Clinton campaign to ensure that anyone who wants to vote can. “In my perfect world, every platform would link up with our voter file,” Rocketto says, “but that feels like a 2020 project to me.”

First, we need to get through Tuesday.

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