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Democracy Club Blog

The Electoral Commission at 20

We wish The Electoral Commission a happy birthday the only way we know how: by thinking about its future effectiveness.

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We’re back!

A look at what’s to come in May 2021 and beyond.

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Where and Who are our Users?

We present a host of graphs (and a map!) in an attempt to understand the people behind the postcode searches.

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The Real One

As many have noted, today was going to be a general election, once.

But it was also going to be The Real One for Democracy Club. The plan, back in autumn 2013, was to learn from the 2015 general election so we knew what we were doing at the 2020 election. Everything up to now was meant to be a practice.

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The Users Strike Back: GE2019, part 2

In this week’s blog, in a sequel to the very popular Last Week’s Blog, we analyse the feedback left on our candidate-lookup website, WhoCanIVoteFor.co.uk, over the general election.

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Vox User Vox Dei: GE2019

In which we review the 4,000 comments left by the users of Where Do I Vote? during the General Election.

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One...

One week to go! We’re trying to get democracy on the election radar, glancing at the manifestos, and generally encouraging people to get involved.

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Two...

Refreshing candidate data, making improvements to WhoCanIVoteFor.co.uk, launching a new SuperWidget, attending events on trust in the elections, and getting as much polling location data into the system as humanly possible. It’s two weeks to go!

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Howdy partner?

In this week’s blog, we’re looking for someone to help us find more data partners, an update on last week’s blogpost on terms of use, one constituency can’t wait for a general election, and some tech updates.

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Draft goals for the year through May 2020

This week’s blog is dedicated to our planning for the year ahead. We plan our years around the election cycle, so end-of-May to end-of-May. (Yes, there might be a snap general, but hey, we’ll worry about that when if it happens.)

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Pexit means Pexit

Our trusty elections assistant, Peter Keeling, leaves us today. In today’s special Fridayblog, he reflects on his wild adventures in democracy.

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138 hours to go!

One last push for LE2019 candidate data; the BBC tells voters the wrong thing; we ask for money; what to do with EuroParl elections and we need ideas for Snapchat.

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Two weeks to go!

Elections come around so quickly. Here’s some analysis of who’s standing. And one last push (okay, probably a penultimate push) for more data.

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One week: 26,666 candidates!

A long week’s work results in a vast amount of candidate data for the local elections. But there’s more to do! And what should we do for the European Parliamentary elections?

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55 days to go!

The latest party news, finding improvements to getting candidates data, we’re full speed ahead on polling locations and we’re in a report!

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Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

What kind of womble are you? What does good journalism at elections look like? When are SoPNs published? And where’s the latest SoPN party to be announced?

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Now we are six

The anthropology of civic tech; help name our crowdsourcing website; reports on democratic engagement and on ‘facebook gangsters’; and when a political party is not a political party.

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Party for democracy!

We’re looking for hosts for election parties! We’re also working hard on polling station data and Sym is in Huddersfield for #NotWestminster!

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The One With Ella

This week, the Cabinet Office spots £27m of savings that could be spent on democratic engagement, crowdsourcing is well under way and we welcome Ella to the team!

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It's 2019!

Happy New Year! Here’s the roadmap to the local elections of May 2019. And — a bonus treat — a quiz on political geographies!

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What changed?

We re-run 262 councillor scrapers after two months and find that not a lot of unexpected changes happened. This leaves us positive about the maintenance overhead for open data on councillors, especially since we’re covering by-elections already. More work is needed to work out the true cost of maintaining a scraper for every council, so we’ll return to the scrapers in another few months.

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The Long Black Friday

It’s a quiet fridayblog today as we’re heads down Getting On With Things. But there’s still room to ask for your help with some candidates, to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of women standing for parliament and to raise a new fundraising idea.

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Wrapping up our research on Representatives (for now)

We started this week asking “What would it take to make a list of all representatives in the UK?”.

To answer this question, or at least create more questions we gave ourselves a week’s “spike”. The idea was to get to the end of the week more informed and able to make some decisions about whether we wanted to do anything else on the project to create a list of all elected representatives in the UK.

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Finding links to lists of representatives

As noted yesterday, one of the first problems with creating a single list of all UK representatives is finding the links to each local list spread across local government websites.

In this technical blog post, I’ll talk about that process, as well some initial thoughts as how easy it is to scrape the data from those local lists once they’ve been found.

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What would it take to make a list of all representatives in the UK

We’re doing our bit for European Local Democracy Week by thinking about how we might get more information on representatives in the UK. We think that access to good information is vital to a well functioning democracy, and providing accessible information on representatives is a good step in the right direction.

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The Blog Transformed

This week, we’re in Liverpool, we’re watching America, we’re reminded that there was such a thing as the Admiralty, we’re discussing open data on councillors, and there’s voter ID news. Phew.

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Back to blog!

Fridayblog went on summer holidays. But it’s back. Did you miss it? This week: what we’ve been up to; what other folks are up to; some events; some Clangers.

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So Long, Farewell.

Rose bids farewell and reflects on her three and a bit months at Democracy Club.

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Courage calls

Six days to go! And we still need your help to help voters. We also look at the gender divide in the local election stats.

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Shake your TICTeCs

In this week’s Fridayblog, we celebrate getting through all the SoPNs for candidate data; launch a new approach to adding useful data for voters; and we’ve some notes from a conference on the impact of civic tech.

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Machine learning to help elections

Know about machine learning? Want to help democracy in the UK? We have a challenge for you!

We want to know whether it’s possible to turn PDFs into data on election candidates. Can you help?

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What Women (Candidates) Want

Today’s post is about the hot topic of the day: women! From leaders in the charity sector to MPs, Rose heard from many different women at the ‘What Women Want 2.0’ report launch. And we need your help!

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The One Where We Make A Plan

Our first ‘proper’ board meeting where we discuss The Plan — we’d love your feedback. We’re also chatting open government, pondering party conferences — and we’re joined by a new staff member next week!

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Happy new year!

In this week’s blog: scarily named security issues threaten to ruin everything, we’ve lost some civic tech mapping friends, we read Her Majesty’s Government’s Democratic Engagement Plan, and there are just four months until the local elections.

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The One With The Halfway Review

We’re halfway through the democracy year! In this week’s blog we review our progress; host a nearly-a-board meeting; raise an eyebrow about open geospatial data news; remember we have a civic tech reading list; and we want your research questions.

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I, for one, welcome our new SlackBot overlords

As a small team, we’re always looking for ways we can use automation to do more for less. This week we’re looking at some of the bots that keep the wheels turning behind the scenes at Democracy Club.

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What did users make of Where Do I Vote?

In this week’s blog, it’s a Where Do I Vote? user feedback special, with some highlights from the full report we published last week. We’re also asking for recommendations for folks we should meet in New York next month, and thinking — as always — about stickers.

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A Time Before Democracy Club

We’re onto Sprint #4, we’re writing to the House of Lords, and we’re learning about organisations doing this ‘make democracy better’ thing for a bit longer than us…

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Sprint 3 and 28 by-elections

We’re coming to the end of Sprint #3 where we’ve fixed bugs, discovered 28 elections and started on a system to get candidates for them all.

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AddressBase and openness

The closed address database in the UK forces us to into a trade off between openness and accuracy.

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The Second Sprint

A few days into Sprint #2, we’ve published the polling location lookup data per local authority, our Trello boards are working well, we’re talking leaflets and boards. Jump in!

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Always in beta: evolving our approach

This week we reflect on how we’ve changed our approach to collecting data for Where Do I Vote over the past couple of years, and what we’ve learned from it.

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The Road to May 2018

Having reviewed the last year and workshopped ‘what’s next’, we’ve now drafted our goals for the year to May 2018. We’d love your feedback!

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Under the hood of Where Do I Vote

Our blog posts tend to focus on talking about objectives and outcomes rather than implementation details, but in order to handle the challenges of a general election our websites make use of some interesting performance optimisations. For the more technically-minded, Democracy Club developer Chris Shaw provides a glimpse under the hood of Where Do I Vote.

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Seven weeks

The polling stations have closed. The exit poll is published. I expect you’re glued to the TV.

But before the results come in, let’s take a moment to look back over what we’ve achieved in just seven weeks.

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Who are Britain's new MPs?

The election hasn’t happened yet, but we already know who’s going to be elected - at least in safe seats. Here’s our guide to the new MPs in Britain’s safest seats.

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Nineteen Days To Go!

We’ve got all the candidates — now the race is on to provide rich information on them, and get it, and where to vote info, to millions of people before E-Day.

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Now we are three

Brought to you from sunny (not true) Bristol, we welcome our first employee, bring back WhereDoIVote.co.uk, and shout about crowdsourcing hustings data.

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We’re On The Highway To May

With just under two months to go before the local elections, we’re reviewing the progress made on our 2017 election goals. We’d also like you to test our new Quests feature. And we’re in Warwickshire for polling location data.

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Ordnance Survey are getting in the way of open election data

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England (LGBCE) created data about elections months ago and Ordnance Survey are getting in the way by blocking its publication until after the elections in May. This means we can’t tell millions of people what elections they have this May.

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The One With Snow In It

Last week saw Democracy Club on the road — from the English Channel to the Peak District. This blog is about our adventures. And we catch you up on crowdsourcing, polling stations and ask you what you want from a new(ish) DC website.

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We’re go for May 2017! And, When Is A Candidate Not A Candidate?

The local elections in May are looming large — our crowdsourcing tool is live now. We’re also committing to track results (at least for FPTP elections) in May. We’ve got questions about how we should verify candidates, and our first Democracy Club: Labs project. All this — and some treats — all in your Friday democrablog.

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'Twas The Blog Before Christmas

In which we review our first full year in operation. We look back at some of the goals for the elections of 2016 — those we met, and those we missed. And how many calories were consumed doing so.

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Live from Paris

A special edition of the blog coming from L’Elysee en Paris for the Open Government Summit. And there’s some very welcome news on funding.

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The Grand Tour

Democracy Club joins mySociety’s annual retreat on Exmoor, then schleps from Taunton to Manchester to talk post-fact politics, then heads to London for catch-ups with the Electoral Commission and Matt Warman MP.

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Keep on keeping on

An update on where-to-vote data, we’re interviewed by Kirklees Democracy Commission and we publish the feedback on WhoCanIVoteFor, which is a must-read.

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The Road to May 2017

In this fortnight’s post: eyes on the prize for May 2017, working out how to learn about every election in the UK and we plug some events that you won’t want to miss.

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Looking back, looking ahead

We point at our review of the elections earlier this month, and we look ahead to the giant looming referendum. We’re excited to announce we’re doing a quick sprint on voter registration. And we’re trying to expand coverage of our polling station finder. Help us out!

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What's next?

The day after the day and night before. Looking back at elections, voters and digital services. And looking ahead, to what we want to do next.

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It's April already. Nobody panic. Don't Panic.

In which we launch WhoCanIVoteFor.co.uk and seek your keen-eyed feedback upon such website, resurrect ElectionLeaflets, announce a new Open Election Results project, and beg for moar data on candidates. Clickedy-click. (Tappedy-tap. Whatever. Devices.)

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TGIGF

Thank Geoff It’s Good Friday. A very short post the day after Demo Day, at which fun was had, and Tim built a new homepage. Which is nice.

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Week 10: 70 Days In...

Ten weeks in, there are signs in the blog post that Joe is losing grip on reality. But also - we launch a polling station finder in Wales, we announce that CandidateFinder (TM) is coming soon, and we ask if anyone knows the queen.

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A reply to Ordnance Survey

Last week we wrote about how hard working out where UK elections are because of the underlying data that is provided, in part, by Ordnance Survey.

They were kind enough to leave a comment explaining more at the bottom of that post.

Here is our reply to them

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Poor mapping data is harming the UK's democracy

We want to do something simple. We want to let everyone in the UK know what elections they are able to vote in on the 5th of May.

That’s it. Do I, an eligible voter in a country that is proud of its old democracy, have an election in the next 10 weeks, or not?

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The One Where Democracy Club Meets A Venture Capitalist

Week 4 update from the bowels of Somerset House. The Thames is lapping at the door. The mice are building boats. We’ve built a new thing for you to test, gained some insights into our potential business models and learned about why it’s incredibly unlikely that we’re ever going to raise VC.

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Week Three in the Big Somerset House

It’s week three in the Big Somerset House. And the housemates are determined to write a blogpost that doesn’t smash through the 600-words-that-people-might-actually-read-limit.

A new prototype to look at, two business models to consider, EURef thoughts, mice, and a new team introduced.

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How (not) to make money

Week two, and the democracy thunder keeps rolling. In this week’s episode: how not to make money, how to attend a lot of meetings, and we introduce Bright Little Labs.

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Day 5 in the incubator...

In which we review the first week at Bethnal Green Ventures, discuss the quality of bacon sandwich available in Somerset House, and reminisce about the bowler-hatted civil servants that once ran the place.

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Why doesn’t Google know where I should vote?

It’s election day. It’s late, and you’re tired. Because in the UK, elections, unlike royal weddings, don’t warrant a day off work, so you’ve only just got home. Somewhere is a small piece of card that was delivered to your house several weeks ago that had the address of your polling station, and a little map of where it is. But now you can’t find it, you’re searching under the sofa and in that drawer in the kitchen, but it’s gone.

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How can you take 3 minutes this sunny weekend to make democracy better?

It’s a glorious weekend. You’re dusting down the barbecue, you’re poking around in the garden. You probably weren’t thinking about the election. But plenty of people are. This weekend hundreds of political party activists will take to the streets to post election leaflets to thousands of homes. In order to watch what the parties are saying, Democracy Club has helped build an election leaflets archive - and we’d love 4 minutes of your time out of the sun to help pack it with data!

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Find your polling station

We’ve tried to make it easy to find out who your local candidates are. We’ve tried to make it easy to see their professional and educational experience. And we’ve tried to highlight opportunities to meet them in person.

But of course, there’s one more crucial step - assuming you’ve already registered. And that’s actually knowing where to go vote.

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Wordpress plugin for MeetYourNextMP.com

If you run a blog using the WordPress platform, perhaps one about your town or region, it is straight forward to add a list of election events in your local area. This helps to inform your visitors and gives them opportunities to meet their possible next MP!

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Emailing 1,800 people

To help make YourNextMP.com the best list of candidates there is, we emailed 1,800 candidates from 2010, asking them if they were standing again.

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A fair fight?

Nesta have an interesting blog post up about big data at the next election. It’s painful reading: it makes it sound like the election campaign will be something done by politicians to the rest of us. (Again).

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The odd one out

In the past two or three years — that is, at any time since the Arab Spring, since the tsunami hit Fukushima, or since William and Kate got married — have you discussed politics?

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Restarting

Although I wan’t involved in organizing Democracy Club before the 2010 election, I did get involved as a volunteer. I uploaded election leaflets that were shoved through my door (as well as getting everyone I knew to give me their leaflets to upload), called up my MP Richard Bacon, asking him why he hadn’t filled out the candidate survey and I even made a little project that stored the major party manifestoes and made them searchable.

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We need to talk

We have a lot of plans and ideas for how to make democracy and elections better that we’ll be blogging and emailing about over the coming months.

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