Blue Squad Aims to Bring Election Tech Up and Down the Ballot

Xconomy National — 

Austin—All politics is local, the adage goes, and those campaigns are sorely stuck in analog mode.

That’s why Shion Deysarkar co-founded Blue Squad two years ago as a “digital coalition” to support progressive candidates by providing them with greater access to accurate voter data. Now, Blue Squad is more formally launching as a political tech startup aiming to use innovative tools to better connect campaigns with potential voters and volunteers.

“It’s not good that the smaller races don’t have easy access to good technology,” says Desysarkar, who is also the founder of Datafiniti, an Austin data analytics startup. “There are real barriers to them being effective that don’t need to be there.”

In recent election cycles, presidential campaigns of both parties have used technology to better reach voters through social media outreach or targeted e-mails. But those tools haven’t trickled down to races down ballot, such as county commissioners or city councilmembers.

“[That tech] gets lost and it’s up to the next group to rehire a new team and rebuild,” he told Xconomy in a phone interview. “That’s not good for democracy.”

The election of President Trump three years ago has particularly galvanized supporters of progressive candidates in the tech community to put their skills to use in the political sphere. Tech for Campaigns, a 4,500-member national network—web developers, data scientists, and marketers at companies like Google and Netflix, among others—paired its volunteers with Democratic campaigns at the state level and other down-ballot races.

Deysarkar was similarly motivated. “We had decades of experience in tech but none in how it works in the political world,” he says.

In the run up to the 2018 elections, Blue Squad beta tested its “relationships organizing tool” in a few campaigns. The idea is for Blue Squad to help campaigns tap into and leverage the online networks of individual supporters, instead of still relying on traditional block-walking and phone-banking efforts to recruit voters.

Individuals interested in helping a campaign that works with Blue Squad can sign up, giving the startup access to their social media and e-mail contacts. Blue Squad then analyzes those networks in order to suggest who might like to receive political content prepared by a campaign.

“Blue Squad can understand what my network looks like and who wants this communication,” Deysarkar says. “It gives me as someone who may want to help, but not motivated to do the grind of block-walking, a way to be active from the comfort of my home, on the phone.”

One of races Blue Squad worked with was that of Joseph Kopser, an Austin startup founder who … Next Page »

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