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By-elections, board progress and using London as a lab

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Board meetings at Democracy Club will almost certainly not be held in a venue as glam as this.

After some excellent not-Joe blogging — e.g. Alex on joining ‘the club’ and Sym on the need for open address data — Joe is returned. Sorry. A short week, but here’s an update on by-elections, board members and London as laboratory.

Getting nearer to Every Election.

Sym wrote about this last week, but Joe only read it this week and got excited enough to write about it again. Democracy Club is getting very close to covering by-elections properly. We’ve got a system of alerts that checks council websites, and we’ve got friendly councils emailing details to us too. We’re manually adding them to the elections database, before they are then imported into the candidates database for manual adding of candidates info, which, once double-checked and locked, will then auto-generate the pages on Who Can I Vote For? — are you following? Great stuff.

Check out some by-elections on this page of the candidates crowdsourcer — note that there are 14 next Thursday! Fourteen! Presumably councillors refused to return from their summer holidays.

All the candidates for those elections next Thursday have been expertly extracted from local authority PDFs and then double-checked by the club’s wonderful volunteers. So if you happen to live at 12, Corsican Drive, Hednesford, you’ll soon be able to pop your postcode into Who… and see who’s standing for the delightful-sounding ward of Hednesford Green Heath, part of Cannock Chase District Council.

Traffic to Who Can I Vote For? has peaked on Wednesdays throughout August, which suggests it might actually be getting some by-election visitors. Now that we’ll soon be able to offer accurate, timely information to those visitors, it’d be good to get those visitor numbers up. We might now need some kind of cunning, automatic, geo-targeted advertising thing to push information on elections and candidates to the right areas at the right times. An email/SMS election alerts service might be a good next step too.

Last chance (for now) to apply to join our board

We’re flattered by the calibre of people that have been expressing an interest in joining the board of Democracy Club, in response to this advert. We’re new to the whole board thing, so we’re proceeding quite cautiously, and taking lots of advice as we go. The plan is to have a chat to everyone who’s applied, go through a couple of concrete examples of the kind of work we’re hoping the board will do, then we’ll bring an board-in-beta together in person to see how everyone gets on.

If you’ve been thinking about applying, but haven’t emailed us yet, now’s the time to do it!

London as laboratory

On Wednesday we met Bite the Ballot and Hope Not Hate to talk about how to boost voter registration and turnout at the London 2018 local elections. Excitingly, we were joined by Maria Sobolewska of the University of Manchester, who hopes to be able to nudge us towards working in a more experimental way. It’ll be tricky to isolate the effects of campaign activity and to rule out other changing factors, but it should be an improvement. It’s early days, but for Democracy Club this project might look like some additional candidate information available at Who Can I Vote For? in the test-condition wards.

The project will also encourage us to get the candidate crowdsourcer up-and-running for next May as soon as possible, depending on the normal fun challenges around ward boundary changes.

Next week

We’ll be starting a new sprint plan (#4 — time flies!) so now’s the time to have a look at our public to-do list (our ‘Trello’ Icebox board) and comment on anything you like, or get in touch if you think we’re missing something. And we’ll be at the London branch meeting of the Association of Electoral Administrators to talk polling locations and candidate info.

Forward!

Photo credit: Scott Walsh on Unsplash