As technology becomes increasingly pervasive in everyday life, politics is no exception. In 2008, President Obama’s campaign harnessed data in an unprecedented way. He created a digital apparatus that harnessed the power of social media and other emerging digital mediums. Following that unprecedented use of technology in 2008, many campaigns focused their resources on developing and pushing the capabilities of already developed technologies.

Fast forward to the early rumblings of 2016, and already we have seen a few gaffes as candidates race to enhance their technical infrastructure. Former Florida Governor, and likely Presidential Candidate, Jeb Bush has probably had the most pronounced problems in recent weeks. While rolling out a strategy seemingly targeted to show his tech-savvy nature, the Bush campaign created a website to release emails from his years as governor. Unfortunately, the gubernatorial tech team forgot to scrub the emails for personally identifiable information (PII). The result? The campaign released social security numbers, dates of birth, and other extremely sensitive information. While they will not be personally liable for the gaffe, insiders fear the campaign may be held politically liable by the very voters they were trying to attract. Coupled with losing the chief technology officer for one of his prominent political action committees, it has been a bad couple of weeks for the Bush campaign.

At the same time, former Senator Hilary Clinton is trying to put together her technology team as she mounts her bid for President. She has reportedly been in talks with many data and technology specialists from both Obama campaigns. There has even been talk about the technology firms likely to play a supporting role in the forthcoming campaign. Those include Civis Analyticss, 270 Strategies, Rising Tide Interactive, and online fundraising tool ActBlue. Still, no official hiring announcements have been made, leaving many wondering whether there will be enough time to develop the technology necessary for a campaign of presidential magnitude.

Many of the technological faux pas start with hiring personnel lacking the experience and vision necessary for the biggest stage in U.S. politics. Still, there may be disconnect between what is important to campaigns and their electorate. Perhaps that is why there has been an explosion of political tech startups. Some are focused on enhancing the public’s current political experience, while others are creating a completely new political experience. With money pouring into politics, one wonders whether there will ever truly be a non-partisan digital medium creating a better political experience for the electorate.

 

Zac Parsons

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