App the vote: 8 mobile tools for tracking the election

It's an exciting election season. We've nominated eight Android and iOS apps that can help you follow the races.

When it comes to the presidential election, it can be mighty challenging to separate the wheat from the chaff. We're not talking about the actual candidates (though that poses challenges as well), but rather about the onslaught of news, opinion and polling that accompany the whole process. Sometimes it feels like you're standing in a hailstorm of election coverage with an umbrella made of tissue paper.

That's when election fatigue starts to set in. Of course, you want to be an informed voter, so what you need is a way to funnel the coverage, to keep a simple but steady stream of information flowing just where you want it. The best option? Your phone or tablet and one of the eight apps we've rounded up here.

This collection includes not only general-news apps from the likes of CNN, Fox News and The New York Times, but also election-specific news apps. Some promise non-partisan coverage, others make no such promises. And if you're a poll junkie, we've got you covered there, too.

If you already have a favorite news app, chances are good it's already serving up plenty of election-oriented coverage. But serious news hounds, especially those who enjoy numbers, charts and other raw data, are sure to find their fix in one or more of these apps.

2016 Election Central

Perhaps the most interesting thing about 2016 Election Central is not the design of the interface or breadth of its coverage. It's the guy who built the apps and the eponymous site that feeds them: Nathan Ashworth, a self-proclaimed hobbyist who claims he's "not sponsored by any candidate, PAC or any other election-related entity." In other words, he's just a guy who really likes covering campaigns.

Earlier this year, his "hobby" served up primary schedules, delegate counts and links to live-debate streams. Most of that data is now outdated, but what's left is still helpful, including a general-election debate schedule, election-related videos and a stream of Nate-authored posts disguised as a news feed. There's even a comments section attached to each post so you can weigh in on the topic.

If there's bias here, I didn't see it. The interface is sparse but effective, with easy tools for sharing stories and marking favorites.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android, iOS

All Politics

True to its name, All Politics covers all things political, with sections devoted to headlines, "Left" and "Right" news, politics-related podcasts and videos, and, for those times when you're tired of all that, general U.S. and world news and videos. It even serves up local weather. All this comes wrapped in a simple, thumbnail-driven interface. Banner ads and sponsored posts appear on all pages.

Although you can find plenty of election-specific news within the app's various categories, All Politics doesn't have a dedicated election section. This despite the words "2016 Election" in the app's name as it appears in both app stores. What's more, the use of large fonts and inline images makes for a lot of scrolling as you work your way through headlines. There's plenty of politics here, but the presentation could be better.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android, iOS


CNN's eponymous app promises "up-to-the-minute live blogs, roundups, election results, analysis and commentary," yet the 2016 Elections section (accessible via the category menu) looks the same as every other section: A scrolling list of stories with ads interspersed. If there's a blog or roundup to be found there, you wouldn't know it -- not at first glance, anyway.

Look closely, though, and you'll spot an ad-like banner touting "a daily dose of data and insight" which leads to political polls and op-ed pieces. Elsewhere, CNN delivers a generous mix of video, along with a "watch TV" option for cable/satellite subscribers.

Overall the app is clean and easy to navigate, with the usual options for sharing and bookmarking, but lacks any option for adjusting font size.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android, iOS

Fox News

Unsurprisingly, the Fox News app delves into the political scene like few others -- and makes no apologies for how it covers that scene. Examples of its coverage, both text and video, are available in the app's Elections 2016 section, which is an offshoot of the broader Politics section. Both are accessible via a slide-out menu.

The app relies on inline "sponsored" stories across all sections and small ad banners on some pages. You can cycle through five different text sizes by tapping a font button. You can also bookmark and share stories, and easily access breaking news thanks to a red siren icon in the corner of the screen.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android, iOS

NY Times

The excellent app version of New York's "Gray Lady" newspaper hits you with election coverage right from the start, with a banner right up top labeled Election 2016. Tapping it takes you directly to the Politics section, where you'll find one of the more eye-pleasing scrolling news feeds around. Instead of just a headline, you also get a brief summary of the article contained therein.

You can bookmark or share any item in the feed without actually opening it, a great time-saver for stories you want to quickly queue up for later reading. When you do tap through to a story, you can swipe left to view the next one, without having to return to the feed. And stories you've already read appear with a slightly grayed-out headline.

Now for the bad news: Access starts at $3.75 per week (unless you're already a print subscriber, in which case it's included). On the plus side, that subscription affords an ad-free reading experience. There's a free option for non-subscribers, but it limits you to just 10 articles monthly.

Price: Free (limited to 10 articles monthly); $3.75 per week for full access Compatibility: Android, OS


Poll junkies, your app has arrived. PollTracker promises "Washington DC by the numbers," and it definitely delivers. A pop-out menu steers you to a wealth of data-laden sections, including Recently Updated, US Congress, Governors and, of course, 2016 President. There's a search page as well, one that can find specific contests or candidates, or filter the available poll data based on state, type and/or office.

When you tap any given poll, you get a full-screen overview of the data. The latest Hillary Clinton update, for example, shows her numbers relative to Donald Trump's, followed by a 12-month line chart. One tap toggles the chart view to a list of the latest polls (and their sources), any of which you can tap to get more specifics. The results are in: PollTracker lets you dive into the latest poll data like few other apps.

Price: Free
Compatibility: iOS

US Presidential Election 2016 News

If I had to pick a winner in this election-app horse race, it would probably be US Presidential Election 2016 News. As the rather clumsy name suggests, it's all about election news, presented here in a straightforward, nicely designed scrolling feed. If you don't like the oversize photos and headlines, one tap toggles a list view with thumbnail images and smaller fonts.

The default view is nice, though, because each story in the feed includes quick-access icons for source, sharing, saving (to a favorites page), more coverage, and (when available) accompanying videos. In other words, you don't have to tap through to access those extras; they're right below the headline.

The app also provides one-tap access to poll data from Politico, complete with search and filtering options. Best of all, you can customize the news feed to block any unwanted party or person, thus getting exactly the election coverage you want. Just be prepared for the occasional pop-up and interstitial ad.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android, iOS

Washington Post

Like The New York Times, The Washington Post offers just a handful of articles unless you pay for a subscription, which costs $10 every four weeks (also like the New York Times, subscribers to the print edition also get full access). It costs $1 to try it out for the first four weeks.

The app offers one of the more stylish interfaces in the group, with a look that feels more newsmagazine than newspaper. You can share or bookmark headlines right from the feed, which zooms stories in and out as you scroll through, and there's a night mode for more comfortable nighttime reading.

However, although the Post offers a Politics & Power section, there's nothing specifically devoted to the upcoming election. You'll find plenty of election-related stories, but the lack of a dedicated section feels like an omission.

Price: Free for first month, $9.99/month after
Compatibility: Android, iOS


Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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