09/10/2010 04:13 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Door to Door Meets the Smartphone

Written by Jeremy Bird and Josh Hendler, Technology Director for DNC/OFA

Going door to door to talk with voters and helping folks get organized to have an impact in their community is the bread and butter of winning elections. It's how the Obama campaign won in 2008, and it's what we're doing each day at Organizing for America to gear up for the November elections. OFA volunteers have been hard at work since June 5th organizing in their communities and reaching out to voters.

These volunteers are the backbone of OFA and making sure they have the tools they need to be effective is our highest priority. We know our volunteers are at their best when they are armed with the best information possible. We also know that our volunteers are mobile, active, and want up to the minute information at their fingertips. That's why last week we unveiled a new canvassing tool that uses the iPhone to give volunteers everything they need to talk with voters right in the palm of their hand. OFA's latest big update to our iPhone app gives volunteers lists of neighbors to talk with and minute-by-minute reporting to keep track of each door knocked and each conversation had. By joining cutting edge technology with old-school tactics, we are enhancing the great work our volunteers already do.

The iPhone is the perfect platform for canvassing. Using GPS to locate where the volunteer is, the app finds voters that are nearby. With mobile internet connection, we are able to retrieve and submit data in real-time, allowing volunteers to talk to our most up to date list of targeted voters and giving us instant feedback on the result of contacts.

Two other things stand out about this new platform.

First - it gives volunteers choices. It gives them the ability to find targeted voters where they would like to canvass. Users of the app can browse around on the map, find the right location for them on any given day, and click "Canvass Now." It also gives volunteers the flexibility to canvass when they are available -- whether it's on a weekday evening or a Saturday afternoon.

Second - volunteers go from zero to canvassing in 30 seconds, flat. Activists can download the app, click "Go Canvass!" find a location, and start canvassing immediately. The technology removes a lot of the traditional barriers to canvassing, including deciding on a list, and printing out a paper map with directions.

This application lets volunteers focus on what really matters--each personal interaction--while eliminating time-consuming work like mapping out lists of houses, bundling papers on clipboards, and data entry after the fact. It also lets any volunteer go door-to-door from wherever they are, regardless of whether there's an organized event happening nearby.

The best way to get a person to vote is simply to ask them--and then remind them to get to the polls on Election Day. Our new iPhone canvassing app continues our work to make participating even easier and more effective. We all know there are going to be close races across the country, and every single door we knock on matters. Just two weeks ago, OFA volunteers knocked on more than 200,000 doors across the country, hitting our ambitious goal for contacts made in just 48 hours. That weekend showed we're gearing up and ready for November--and with new technology and old-fashioned organizing, we're taking it to the next level this year.