With the 2012 presidential election fast approaching, a Brookhaven resident's website aims to foster more interest in the workings of democracy--while offering some big prizes, too.
Brookhaven's Allan Keiter started 270 to Win in August of 2004.
"I got the idea after what happened in 2000 with the Bush-Gore thing," he said. "Not many people were familiar with the whole Electoral College concept before then and I figured we're probably in for another close race in 2004. I didn't see anything close to what I'd envisioned on the web, so basically I hired some programmers and created [270 to Win]."
270 is the number of Electoral College votes needed for a presidential candidate to win the race.
Though the site drew interest in its early years, it really started to blossom during the 2008 election with more widespread high-speed internet availability and a huge amount of interest in the process.
"We had a touchscreen version of it at a museum in Chicago, it got mentioned on 'The Daily Show' a couple of days before the election and it got pretty popular," Keiter said. "This year we're seeing some of the same levels of popularity."
A new feature on 270 to Win allows users to share the hypothetical electoral maps they create across social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus. There is also a 270 to Win app for the iPad.
Keiter is holding an America's Electoral Map contest where people try to predict, as accurately as possible, how the electoral map will look in November.
"It's an effort to use the wisdom of the crowd to forecast the election. Whether we get it right or wrong, who knows, we'll see in November," he said.
According to Keiter, many users will leave some states undecided or build their maps around what they personally hope will happen. The contest, though, requires people to predict all 50 states and Keiter hopes that will make users think about the bigger picture.
There is a total of $2,000 in prizes available. $500 in Amazon gift cards will go to the first person to put in a perfect score, plus three separate prize periods as well. People who submit maps in August have a greater chance to win because they've submitted earlier, although people submitting in September and October will all have at least one chance to win another of the $500 gift cards. One entry per day is allowed.
270 to Win offers many ways to begin crafting an electoral map, whether by starting with a blank slate, polling results or 2008's results. Clicking on a state to assign its electoral votes for President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney also brings up statistics about how the state in question voted in the last 10 elections. The site includes a blog, links to poll results, political news, a quiz about the Electoral College and more.
The America's Electoral Map contest is open until the end of October.