We painstakingly prep every page of our website
In this week’s Thursdayblog, we think about editorial decision-making for Who Can I Vote For? and round up what else is going on.
👩💻 What information should we show on WhoCanIVoteFor? 👩💻
For local elections, the volunteers of Democracy Club often struggle to find any digital presence of candidates at all.
But at a general election, this all changes. At the last general election, we piled information onto candidate pages: links to hustings, party manifestos, previous parliamentary voting records (if applicable), even mentions from the charities and companies registers.
This didn’t necessarily satiate the voters’ demands… because we never really know how people make decisions and what information might help. (Assuming information helps at all…)
In regard to the likely general election this year, we’ve been thinking that it might be a reasonable assumption that a lot of voters will want to know ‘where does this candidate stand on Brexit?’.
This kind of positional data seems like a next logical step for WhoCanIVoteFor.co.uk, because the most common user feedback we see is ‘where does the candidate stand on x issue’.
We might think of WhoCanIVoteFor.co.uk slowly moving up the information ladder described on p.12 in UCL Constitution Unit’s ‘Doing Democracy Better’ (PDF) (if any illustrators want to illustrate a version of this ladder, that would be reeeally helpful).
The closest we’ve got so far, partly because it’s also the simplest thing to do, is to provide the “Statement to voters” open text field, which allows the candidates themselves to address whatever they think the voter will/should care about.
But there is maybe more we can do. At GE2017, we also linked to the voting records of candidates that were previously MPs, but then that’s not necessarily terribly informative if you can’t compare it with the candidates who haven’t already been MPs.
So what other useful sources of positional data exist? It seems likely that campaign groups will start compiling such data. For example, candidates might be asked to make pledges on housing, NHS and, of course, Brexit. And it might be helpful to show those pledges on WhoCanIVoteFor.co.uk — bringing them together into one place.
We’ve also been discussing to what extent past election results data is useful to show to voters.
All of which brings us to the topic of: how do we decide what goes on Who? Who should decide?
Perhaps in an ideal world we’d do some focus groups with a representative sample of UK voters, in the way that Germany’s Federal Agency for Civic Education works out the issues that voters care about for its voter advice application, but alas we probably can’t afford that. (If you’re reading, Lord Ashcroft, and fancy funding this, get in touch)
We’re guessing there is some polling out there about ‘what voters say is the most important issue they will decide how to vote on’… perhaps you know of some? Please share it!
Otherwise we’re left with our and your best guesstimates — get in touch! And there’s of course the question of what data we can actually access digitally, and what is available on a significant number of candidates (does it have to be all candidates, in order to be fair?)..
We’re keen to hear of interesting datasets that we could link to candidates. Or if you’re a campaigner/academic/journalist collecting data on a candidate-by-candidate basis, please bear us in mind and use our candidate IDs.
More to come.
🌪 Other stuff! 🌪
We found a widget manufacturer! He’s going to be making improvements to the polling locations widget, bringing it bang up to date and including info on candidates too. Hurrah!
We’re adding new fields to enable collection of candidates’ Instagram and YouTube accounts. Hurrah!
We’re submitting some words to the Lords committee on digital and democracy.
Joe spoke at a thing last week, they put it online! The sound quality’s not great, but hey ho.
📅 What’s next? 📅
We did a new Sprint plan on Tuesday, check it out here. Includes: thinking about self-service uploads for councils and their polling location data; prep for our board stategy awayday type thingy; and getting through some of the small things on the list of things to improve about Candidates.