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SuperWombles and other stories

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Not all heroes wear capes. Or carry axes. But there are mountains of data. I’m losing control of this metaphor.

This week! We celebrate some top volunteering, catch up on voter ID pilots, and we’re meeting people and reading stuff!

🏆 10,000 edits 🏆

There are wombles, and there are SuperWombles. Democracy Club runs on amazing volunteers like sjorford, who last week crashed through 10,000 edits on the Candidates Crowdsourcer all-time leaderboard. With thousands of candidates preparing to stand for election this May, there’s plenty of opportunity to catch up! Get started with the upcoming elections here.

💳 Voter ID trials 💳

We’ve been watching and waiting for a while for more information about the Voter ID pilots that will be happening in Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking.

In the last week, the five councils have started publishing information on what kind of ID will be required, and what voters can do if they don’t have the mandated ID. Here’s Gosport’s requirements, for example. We’re still trying to find the Statutory Instruments that set out the rules for the five councils.

We’re keen to do what we can to help voters learn about the pilots and will be flagging the ID requirements in all of our products and services. We’d still love more information on the evaluation of these pilots — we’ll let you know if we spot it!

👋 Who we’re meeting 👋

Behind every great council electoral services team is a good electoral management system. There’s a small group of companies who provide these systems. Xpress are one of these companies and have been consistently useful partners for us. Most notably, their work to make it easy to export data on polling locations has greatly increased the coverage of our polling station finder. Double thumbs-up. Sym met with their chief exec this week to discuss how else we can work together to make it easier for useful data to get out into the world and provide good services to voters.

We were also in Cardiff again for the Open Data Jelly (a co-working event for people who do open data stuff in Wales). If you’re interested in coming along, check out the next events in Swansea and Cardiff. We chatted about Welsh-language OpenStreetMap, a new Welsh language newspaper and more.

We caught up with Facebook and Google this week to continue to make the case for good voter information. Both companies are keen to continue to work together and to continue to consume Democracy Club data.

And this afternoon, Joe is going to attempt to inspire students of the University of Westminster’s Digital Politics course to get involved in civic tech. Or, more realistically, the students are going to explain how we’re already out-of-date.

📜 What we’re reading 📜

Facebook’s Samidh Chakrabarti, their product manager for civic engagement, recently published a piece that acknowledges some of Facebook’s flaws and briefly sketches their attempts to mitigate them. For instance:

…we’re working to make politics on Facebook more transparent. We’re making it possible to visit an advertiser’s Page and see the ads they’re currently running. We’ll soon also require organizations running election-related ads to confirm their identities so we can show viewers of their ads who exactly paid for them. Finally, we’ll archive electoral ads and make them searchable to enhance accountability.”

We love a bit of transparency at Democracy Club, so that all sounds good. The piece also outlines some of Facebook’s thinking on other criticisms of the platform, including their plans to start showing ‘Related News’ in users’ newsfeeds to counter fears about filter bubbles. The full piece is well worth a read.

Last year, Private Eye contacted all councils to see which councillors were in arrears on their council tax. It was a fascinating bit of work and so popular that they’ve repeated it and published the results here.

Lastly, the Electoral Commission are in Scotland today, talking about modernising voting and other election reforms. We’re following along via #ScotDemocracy on twitter.

📅 Next week 📅

We’ve got a quarterly board meeting, we’ll be adding more elections to the system (so we can crowdsource more candidate data!) and we’re on the lookout for someone to help us make a new explainer video. Get in touch if that’s you. We’ll also be preparing for the local elections meetup in London on Monday, 5 Feb — we hope to see you there!

Forward!