App the vote: 9 mobile tools for election junkies

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

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Mobile apps for the informed voter

When it comes to the presidential election, it can be mighty challenging to separate the wheat from the chaff. I'm not talking about the actual candidates (though that poses challenges as well), but rather 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 nine apps I've rounded up here.

This is an eclectic group, to say the least. In addition to straight-up election-news apps, there's the educational 270toWin, which provides map-based electoral forecasting along with historical maps and an electoral timeline. There's also 2016 Election Central and RealClearPolitics, each promising non-partisan coverage, plus several apps that'll help you keep tabs on the latest polls.

If you already have a favorite news app, chances are good it's serving up plenty of election-oriented coverage, if not a special section devoted to it. But serious news junkies, especially those who enjoy numbers, charts and other raw data, are sure to find their fix in one or more of these apps.

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Don't look now, but 270toWin aims to educate while it informs. This iPad-only app brings the Electoral College to colorful life across a variety of U.S. maps. In the History section, for example, you can drag a timeline slider from the 2012 election all the way back to 1789, watching the blue/red (with occasional spurts of yellow, when a third-party candidate carried a state) results as you go. (Who knew Nixon won every state but two?)

The encyclopedic States section provides electoral data and voting history for each state. And the Library supplies electoral templates from the last three presidential elections, any of which you can use as the basis for creating your own, custom map. This is where you can channel your inner Nate Silver and try to predict this year's outcome, or just track the results on election night.

270toWin doesn't supply news or even current poll data, but it does give you an intriguing and interactive look at the Electoral College.

Price: $0.99
Compatibility: iPad

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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: Nate 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.

His "hobby," however, has yielded an extremely robust app, one that serves up info not typically found elsewhere: 2016 primary schedules and delegate counts, party debate schedules (and info on getting tickets!), 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. What I did see is one of the most diverse and refreshing election apps in the group.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android, iOS

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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

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Election Polls Today

Is it possible to make poll data sexy? Election Polls Today does its best, turning Huffington Post-supplied election and opinion polls into colorful pie charts, bar charts and line graphs. You'll see everything from Obama job-approval ratings to a party-identification breakdown to individual candidate favorability numbers. For any given visualization, you can tap a star to add it to your favorites for easier following -- and the app will notify you when that chart is updated. You can also tap through to see the numbers reflected on a timeline, with a link that opens the source material in your mobile browser.

Even better, a search option makes it easy to find poll data for a particular issue, state or candidate. Judging it on visuals alone, Election Polls Today ranks as one of my favorite election apps. And although there's a Gold upgrade option that promises freedom from ads, the free version I tested didn't have any.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android

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If charts are your thing, check out FrontRunner. The first time you run the app, you're asked to pick a party: Democrat or Republican. From there you get a 12-month graph that shows polling results for the various candidates. A slider along the bottom lets you narrow the timeline, honing in on a specific month or range of months, and you can toggle individual candidates to see only the ones that interest you. There's also a widget view that shows polling percentages in your iPhone's Notification Center.

However, FrontRunner is very much a one-trick pony, and after you've chosen a party, the app charges $1.99 to unlock the other one. Needless to say, it would be easy to score the same data for free elsewhere. The app looks nice enough, but you probably won't look at it very long.

Price: Free for one party; $1.99 to see stats for both
Compatibility: iOS

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When all you want is at-a-glance presidential poll data, look no further than Poll-Up. The app serves exactly one purpose: To give you the latest numbers for Democrats and Republicans, each presented on side-by-side screens. Poll-Up pulls its numbers from Huffington Post's Pollster API, though it doesn't indicate whether a candidate has moved up or down since the last update. Still, the data is presented simply and attractively, without the usual clutter of ad banners.

Price: Free
Compatibility: Android

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Poll junkies, your app has come. PollTracker, which comes from the political news site Talking Points Memo, 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, U.S. 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 Bernie Sanders', 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

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Do you want election coverage that reinforces your worldview, or do you want views from all sides? The idea behind RealClearPolitics (the app offshoot of "the most visited political website") is to provide curated non-partisan coverage of all the issues. It's not specifically an election-oriented app, though obviously a lot of the current news falls into that bucket.

The app's Home screen lists headlines and their sources, while Latest News divides headlines into sections like Election 2016 and Democratic Primary 2016. There's a Popular page that shows the most-read articles of the last 24 hours, plus sections devoted to polls and videos. It's a pretty basic, plain app, with an omnipresent ad banner across the top. But if you want a simple political-news aggregator that at least promises balanced coverage, this is it.

Price: Free
Compatibility: iOS

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U.S. Election 2016 News

If I had to pick a winner in this election-app horse race, it would probably be the clumsily named U.S. Election 2016 News (if you use the Android app) and Election NF 2016 -- U.S. Presidential Elections News (if you use the iOS app). As the 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.

That 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

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