Innovative Ideas Abound at VIP’s NYC Hackathon

The Voting Information Project (VIP) hosted its first-ever hackathon in New York City on August 2-3 to take advantage of the enthusiasm surrounding the New York City municipal primary on September 10th. This is the first time since 2001 there is an open seat for mayor.

The participating hackers had access to application programming interfaces (APIs) from a variety of existing and new VIP partners including the Google Civic Information APIAzavea’s Cicero APITwilio’s SMS API, and several APIs from The Sunlight Foundation. Nearly 100 developers, designers, usability experts, and New Yorkers worked to develop new and innovative tools to help voters in New York City get the information and access they need to vote in September.

The day and a half long event kicked off with featured speaker Karen McGrane, Managing Partner at Bond Art + Science, discussing the evolution of the mobile interface and its role in citizen engagement. The takeaway? Everyone, organizations and election administrators, should have a mobile strategy.

Following presentations on some of the available APIs from sponsors Google, Microsoft, Twilio, and Azavea, and a presentation from, participants brainstormed, paired up, and got started.  Saturday morning, participants were up and back at it, and they worked all day on their apps.  Presentations and judging began early Saturday evening, and prize winners were selected by notable members of the New York City technology community who volunteered their time to participate as judges.  They were:

The grand prize, a $500 gift card donated by Facebook, was awarded to the application that best used VIP data to provide election information to voters. Microsoft, Twilio, and Azavea also provided prizes and prize criteria.

GovernLeap, a project that helps voters learn about the backgrounds of leaders and politicians, took the Grand Prize. The Twilio prize winner for best use of its SMS functionality was FQ, a tool that empowers voters to track and report wait times at their polling places; the Azavea prize winner was We Vote We Ride, an application that uses Azavea’s mapping technology to link voters who need rides to their polling places with volunteers willing to drive them; and, the Microsoft prize winner, Know Your Representatives, allowed a voter to communicate directly with their individual representatives.


Grand Prize

GovernLeap — Sara Michener

Microsoft Winner

Know Your Representatives — Avi Das, Vaisyaraju Aditya Raju, Govindaraj Kathirvel

Azvea Winner

We Vote We Ride — Kevin Gao, Pu Shi, Allan Zhang, Zhemin Zhang

Twilio Winner

FQ — Margaret Kim, Yvonne Leow, Katie Zhu, Marco Chang, Dan Hill, Chris Smith

For more information on all of the projects created at the hackathon, please visit our HackerLeague event page.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our first-ever New York City hackathon. We were impressed by the number of people who came out to join us, and by the innovative ideas that came out of it.

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Michelle Shim