When elections happen, we need to do a lot of work in a short amount of time. This is especially true of a snap election. In 2017 we had six weeks to ask every council for their polling station data, process, clean it and get it live on the site. Simultaneously we had over 3,304 candidate’s details to crowdsource, servers to warm up, events to run, press to talk to and partnerships to make.
We managed it, just. We got about 60% of councils providing polling location data, all the candidates, many with photos, statements, educational background and even their favourite biscuits.
With a goal of over 90% polling station coverage and high expectations for our other work, we have good reason to expect that in future we will have a lot more to do. This is good news for democracy, but introduces a really tricky problem for us.
In a typical business that gets more popular over time, you can expect that when the workload is to much for the team you would be able to hire more people to manage it. That gets a bit harder when we don’t have enough work (or money) to hire people full time to be ready just in case there is a sudden spike of work caused by a snap general election.
So here’s what we’re thinking: can we hire a reserve team who we pay for a few days worth of training, and then we only hire them in the run-up to elections? How would that even work?
Can we make a roster of contractors on whom we could call in the event of an election?
We would be after a few different people to help out at short notice either full-or part-time on the run up to the election:
- Someone to do council liaison and gather polling station data a bit like we hired for last year
- A python developer who knows their way around UK geographic datasets. You don’t have to have memorized every GSS code, but experience with BoundaryLine, AddressBase and UPRNs would be a huge help.
- A Django dev who could have some creative thoughts about improvements to WhoCanIVoteFor.co.uk. Last time we had a few datasets given to us that we needed to import quickly, and other general improvements that might come up.
- A community and event manager to help run our events and get people to them
- A sysadmin who knows about AWS and Ansible, and a fairly standard stack of Python/Postgres. Here’s a little about how we deploy our sites
Photo credit: Kevin Teague