06/05/2010 11:48 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Personal democracy now a common goal

Vote iQ political social networking platform listens to voters

By Mike Smith
Huffington Post Blogger
Mike Smith Public Affairs, Washington, DC

The Personal Democracy Forum is all grown-up. And the suppliers and technology platforms serving politics have become ever-more sophisticated.

With the PDF asking social media and political operatives to actually "do something" with all the available networking, companies have brought data and voter engagement tools to the dance.

What is clear, as we listened to political pundits, Obama administration technology officers, social commentators, and visionary thought leaders, is that the same way of doing business in Washington is being replaced by a citizen-centric model.

Tim O'Reilly, in an exclusive interview with this reporter, said the old way is like getting your dollar lost in a vending machine. He used that analogy to say that politicians are still vending the same old candy. When voters say they want their money back, there is no coin return (paraphrasing our own twist).

Craig Newmark, Aneesh Chopra, Esther Dyson, Jimmy Wales, Mindy Finn and so many others with whom we spent time here are clear about transparency, open government initiatives and giving voters more of a say in what happens in their lives.

Rick Shenkman, author of the Amazon best seller Just How Stupid Are We: Facing the truth about the American Voter, is with a new outfit called Vote iQ ( I have had the pleasure of helping him and the Vote iQ team bring a new voter engagement platform to market.

Vote iQ, the nation's first major political social networking site offering voters content and access to politicians, candidates, interest groups, and current events hopes to be a game changer. During a product demo "shoot out" and feedback from judges like Craig, the company fared well in its ambition to create a new voter empowerment paradigm. Vote iQ later this week initiated a deal with Campaign Grid, an online advertising platform and database for political races.

Vote iQ has a unique matching technology to help candidates and the electorate "match" their ideas and create conversations. Vote iQ provided a sneak preview of its beta version. Campaign Grid supports candidate social networking, online fundraising and rallies public support. It is an integrated platform of online ad tools and analytics for political races.

Both companies are targeting national, state and local political races. However, Vote iQ launched a preview beta version of its platform this week at PDF and expects to be involved initially in federal contests in nine states for midterm elections.

Concurrently at PDF, Microsoft announced its Town Hall program for running political campaigns and issues advocacy programs. Along with Election Mall, the idea is to create "customizable solutions" in the cloud. Politicians can build a web presence, manage collaboration with donors, raise money, and promote themselves including GOTV efforts.

Where voter preferences, issues analysis, bi-partisan funding (avoiding 529 contribution or Citizen's United exemptions) and grassroots voices come into play remains to be seen on some of the new offerings.

While the degree of sophistication and larger companies entering the market spaces continues apace, it seems the smaller, more nimble companies have always ruled the day in new innovations. That Microsoft, Google and others are getting into the fray, simply further validates the space. For sure, the game is changing. But who will be the game changers now.

Mike Smith is a Washington native. He worked on the Obama for President Campaign in Press and Advance. He was part of the President Clinton Transition Team in Communications. Mike owns his own business, Mike Smith Public Affairs (