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

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Lab Deep inside ‘Democracy Club: Labs’, things are growing.

In your Democracy Club update this week:

  • Candidates crowdsourcing is go! Election results will be go!

  • How do we verify candidates?

  • Check out our first labs project! And treats!

First things first:

Find those candidates

In case you missed it, we launched the crowdsourcer for candidates for elections this May. In fact, whisper it, we launched the crowdsourcer for candidate details full stop. This is now an ongoing project that seeks to list all candidates for all the elections we cover.

Wherever there is democracy, let there be candidates crowdsourcing. Get started here. (And keep an eye out for those candidates with an impressive history of standing in various elections — the historical data is now really starting to build up!)

Open election results data

Last week we met with the Local Government Improvement Unit (LGiU) who are keen to capture election results on the night again. Last time, we partnered to record control-of-council results in near real-time, and didn’t do too badly at recording the results per ward too. With a bit of tinkering, we’ll be back in business on 4 May. We’ll be needing a hand if we’re to close the data gap…

How should we verify candidates?

Much of the feedback we get on WhoCanIVoteFor.co.uk says something like:

‘Names are fine, but I want to know what these people stand for!’

Which is fair. We think the first step towards this is probably allowing every candidate something like a 100-word statement about why they should be elected.

And there’s other stuff we’d like to trial in future: volunteer sign-up, updates from candidates, Q&As, and so on.

But here’s the tricky bit: how do we verify candidates? How can we be sure that the person making the statement is the candidate?

The worse-case scenario is that someone sends us a candidate statement or does a Q&A, but is not, in fact, the candidate. Remember, there are no official emails — or any other official information on candidates bar their address on the Statement of Persons Nominated published by returning officers.

Ideas so far include:

  • Charging a small fee to candidates and checking the name on the payment. Nice, but what if the agent does it for the candidate?

  • Asking them to tweet us from a verified twitter account (easy, but few candidates will have these)

  • Using official party email addresses (but may be difficult to arrange — doesn’t help for independents or small parties)

Add your ideas or thoughts in the comments below, please!

Announcing our first ‘Labs’ project: EU Regulations API

We plan on using Labs branding and an area of the website for projects in prototype form, those that are simply rough ideas at the moment or those that are passed on to us by other civic technologists, who hacked something together and want their work to have a logical home, where others might find it and build on it.

Labs will be a place where stuff doesn’t often work perfectly — where we don’t reach the exacting standards we aim for with our Services (e.g. WhoCanIVoteFor) and Data (the polling stations API). But it might be quite fun.

The first project we’ve published relates to Brexit and our call for better data and tools to help civil society understand and influence Brexit — it’s an API for EU regulation.

Upon leaving the EU, loads of our laws will change. It’s quite hard at the moment to know exactly what that means, or what might be lost. Our aim with this project is to make the conversation about these laws easier to have, by improving the information about them. For example, Richard Pope has made a tool that lets anyone tag the legislation with keywords. Try it for yourself, for example by reading the law on what claims about children’s health can be made on food packaging.

If you know anyone who’s working on something Brexit-related, forward it on!

What am I voting for?

The elections in May are for a range of different levels of local government. Frankly, we find it pretty confusing — we’re wondering if voters do too. Given that it’s best if people know what they’re voting for, we have put together some explainers and kept them as brief and simple as possible. Take a look! Comment on them! Test them out on your friends, family and colleagues, and let us know what you find!

Treats

Thanks for reading this far. Your reward?

Election calendar

Wouldn’t it be great if there were an online calendar of election events in the UK? The good people at the Association of Electoral Administrators run a comprehensive-looking one, but it’s published as a PDF. (We’ll lobby them soon.) In the meantime, here’s our .ics feed that you can plug into whatever app you use; we put elections, SOPN deadlines, and other bits and pieces relevant to Democracy Club in it. Free to all good democracy fans.

Rare footage of Sym Roe

Joe may have promised that this wouldn’t go in the blog, but whoops.

Next time

On Monday we’re at the beach for the Association of Electoral Administrator’s annual conference in Brighton. We’re keen to say hello to all the people we’ve been mercilessly emailing for so long — and to answer questions and hear new ideas.

Then it’s just a short hop from Brighton to Huddersfield for the #NotWestminster conference. We’re looking forward to catching up all the good people working on making local democracy better.

We’ll also be working on geographic boundaries so all your postcodes work, worrying about various Companies House things, and spreading the word about candidates data.

Forward!