WNYC’s New Tech City Interviews Jed Alpert about Our Polling Place Locator


This morning, WNYC’s New Tech City interviewed our CEO Jed Alpert. Reporter Manoush Zomorodi asked about how our polling place locator was providing accurate information in the wake of Sandy. The two also discussed how texting is a useful resource in any crisis situation. Read a transcript of the full interview below, or listen to the audio!

New Tech City: Add the impact of Sandy to recent redistricting, and it’s the perfect storm – sorry – for a very confusing election day. What if your usual polling site doesn’t have power, or it’s being used as a shelter? Here in New York City alone, about 60 polling sties have been moved or combined. And that’s where text messaging comes in. Jed Alpert is the CEO of Mobile Commons,  a Brooklyn based company that runs national text messaging campaigns.

Jed Alpert: On election day, we’re working with a number of organizations to help get out the vote – including working with the Voter Information Project, Google, Voto Latino, and other organizations to provide a polling place locator for anyone who needs to know where their polling place is.

We allow anyone to text in the word WHERE to the short code 877877 – that’s the word WHERE, or in Spanish DONDE to 877877.  And then you’ll be triggered to text in your address. And you’ll receive a text with your polling place and a number to call for more information.

New Tech City: And presumably this will be good because maybe today there will be are going to be people who won’t be voting where they thought they’d be voting thanks to storm Sandy.

Jed Alpert: Certainly our partners are working very very hard to have the most updated information put into that system. So that even if there’s been a change to where you’re meant to vote, the polling place locator will give you correct information, or at least a resource to find out.

New Tech City: It was really striking to me last week that the two things that kept going were that, I could keep listening to the radio, and I kept getting text messages. Can you explain why texting sort of literally weathered the storm?

Jed Alpert: Texting really is the last point of failure for mobile connectivity, because a text message is so small, and requires the least amount of power for the cell tower, and for the whole system to send and receive, and doesn’t require a persistent connection like a phone call. You send a text message, it’s one message, and it finds its way through the system to the recipient, with much more reliability when there’s less electricity and less mobile coverage.

The number one way that human beings communicate on earth communicate is via text messaging. That’s true here. That’s true in the rest of the world. It’s true in all demographics and all age groups.

New Tech City: Jed Alpert, CEO and co-founder of Mobile Commons. Thank you so much.

Jed Alpert: Thank you.

Listen to the full interview here:

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