Media

Developing Instantly Gratifying Data-base Visualizations

8 March 2013

Data Visualizations - Background


For over a decade Vote Smart worked at various methods of building the Voter’s Self-Defense System. During this process Vote Smart received a great many very flattering commendations (see What they are Saying). However, the focus was always on completing the system, and completing the system meant having compiled detailed applications of employment on thousands of candidates whether they cooperated or not.


We thought we had accomplished this goal in 2002 and made plans to officially announce our success, but setbacks delayed this.


Congressional Quarterly pulled the plug on our Key Votes Division. We rebuilt it. Then it became apparent that the major political parties had effectively dismantled our ability to acquire useful issue positions by convincing candidates not to provide those issue positions in a meaningful way for fear of opposition research. So we researched and provided their positions for them.


In 2008 we finally had the entire system up and operating and spent close to $1 million in full-page newspaper ads and a 45,000 mile national tour to deliver the Voter’s Self-Defense System to the country. What better way, we thought, to conquer misinformation and tortured truth than our immense database of abundant, accurate, factual information on those seeking to represent us. It would now be up to citizens to use it, to flock to it. But they didn’t.


Although heavily used by political scientists, journalists, political activists and opposition researcher we were only able to reach 12.5% of the American public. That left 87.5% unaware of Vote Smart and its Voter’s Self-Defense program. It was as if Vote Smart had gone on a quest for the Holy Grail, found it, spent years bringing it home, only to find out no one gave a damn.


We asked ourselves why? And then we began researching the Voter’s Self-Defense System user’s experience. We discovered that time was a serious issue. On average it took a citizen using the system 40 minutes to look up a single candidate on a single issue and find all the data we had compiled on it in each of our six categories. The information was there but citizens would need to spend hours looking up all of the candidates they had to decide on and all the issues they were interested in. It was too much data, too deep, too rich.


The Voter’s Self-Defense System had to be simplified, lead users into one quick, tasty, juicy bite. Then maybe they could learn to enjoy and digest the reality that the Voter’s Self-Defense System represented.


VoteEasy


In 2010 Vote Smart tested VoteEasy, an interactive tool that allowed citizens to match their own issue positions with those of the candidates on a small sampling of twelve issues. Users type in their zip code, answer a few questions on key issues and watch as the candidates’ campaign yard signs advance or recede depending on the level of their agreement. If the users question the movement of a sign or want more detail they simply click on it and see the candidate’s public record on that issue.


Our modest test of VoteEasy went viral. So many people used it that we were unable to handle the demand on Election Day and our servers crashed. We hit one out of the park.

By 2012 we were able to set up a similar system for the presidential race and for every congressional race. Usage went up 50% and more importantly people spent twice as much time on VoteEasy and had twice as many page views compared to those using our general, far more powerful, deeper, richer Voter’s Self-Defense System website. Citizens simply did not want, or did not have the time to do the research. Because of our unquestioned credibility users just wanted the candidate’s position quickly exposed on the various issues of unique concern to them.


The experience was a revelation to Vote Smart. VoteEasy is just a tiny sampling of what we are capable of. We have and maintain all of the factual data on thousands of candidates and could go much deeper than just these few basic issues.


The lesson learned with VoteEasy was that the delivery of the Voter’s Self-Defense System is the key to citizen interest and use. It is not enough to be accurate, abundant and relevant, our delivery system must also be fast, easy and….entertaining! Plans for future elections will focus on developing new interactive tools that combine and synthesize the data.


Today, Vote Smart staff is busy developing coding systems by issues and topics for every piece of data entering the Voter’s Self-Defense System. They will then go back and code the millions of records already entered. This will enable Vote Smart to create far more sophisticated but entertaining, powerful but simple, arduous to create but instantly gratifying, data visualizations for millions of unique users.


What Vote Smart Needs To Do


Vote Smart is certain that VoteEasy has pointed the direction to the future of voter education but needs financial assistance in order to build a solid platform upon which future political data systems can be built.


In order to build that platform it is essential that Vote Smart do two things:


1. Code millions of bits of factual data by issue, by elected official, and by candidate (during election years). This must be done in two ways:
 

First, would be in Vote Smart’s work with the Texas Advanced Computer Center (TACC). With a $27 million grant from the National Science Foundation TACC possesses one of the world’s fastest Super Computers. Staff at TACC believe that it may be possible to create a program that is able to code like or associated bits of data within our enormous databases. These discussions will continue through March when we hope to have a working proposal.

Second, even if TACC is able to program the coding processes it will require extensive time from Vote Smart staff to review those codes for accuracy and usefulness in creating new data visualizations. In addition, we may find that TACC cannot successfully code political data. In that case, Vote Smart has created a plan that will do it manually using a team of research staff and interns at both its University of Texas and Montana research centers. Such a manual process would require a staff of 6 and 14 interns seven months to complete, but would still be done in time to create data-visualizations for the 2014 elections.


2. Creating data visualizations would have to take place after the coding is complete. The coding would open a whole new world for the nation’s voters where systems could be built to tailor information to each users interests. Here are some of the ideas currently under discussion:


Political Galaxy: An interactive application that would automatically combine like pieces of information in which a user has expressed interest. For example: If a user asks how Sen. McCain voted on off-shore oil drilling the tool would swirl together the galaxy of political data that Vote Smart has compiled lighting up those stars that represent information related to the user’s inquiry. Not only the answer requested but also other stars where related information exists would appear. In this case it might include contributions from oil or environmental interests, ratings from energy or environmental groups, public comments he made on off-shore oil, previous issue positions, or even biographical data showing experience in the subject matter.  This would reduce the current need for up to an hour of research in our database to a few minutes. 


Report Card: When a voter wants to see how a candidate is rated by various special interests they could go to our databases and instead of seeing long lists of digits representing more than 200 competing special interests, they would simply see a report card much like one all users are familiar with from their school days.  They draw their cursor through the names of the special interests they are concerned with and the grades would instantly appear on the card, representing the evaluations done on them by those organizations.


Ocean of Cash:  Again, instead of seeing endless rows of digits representing campaign contributions from interests, users would simply see a seething ocean of dollar bills. As they draw their cursors through the names or symbols of various special interests the ocean peaks in waves or drops into troughs, representing the relative amount of money received from each interest.

 Candidate Cloud: A representation of each candidate’s preference for key words, phrases, or subjects of unique interest to the user, perhaps using clouds representing the user’s selections. For example, if “border fence” is a popular theme of the candidate’s it would show up as a large cloud.  If “acid rain” is selected, by the user but is rarely or never mentioned it would be a tiny cloud or not appear at all.


Web/Mobile App: This involves the designing of all our interactive tools and our web site itself into systems that can easily be used and understood on hand-held devices. Mobile apps is an area Vote Smart has no experience in but realizes is essential to develop.
 
 

Related tags: blog

Comments

Richard Fairfield says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 4:55 p.m.

Feel free to use any or all the information on TheModernUtopian.com Ibcludes FIRST STEPS to take on 26 important issues.

Dave Bean says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 5:20 p.m.

I'm not quite sure what you are trying to do with this project, but we do need a much better way to evaluate candidates than the 30 second TV spots or presidential debates where both the number of candidates and issues are highly limited.

Eleanor Redmond says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 5:48 p.m.

I have no money to donate. Sorry. I am, by profession, artistic (fine art through sign painting to house painting), exacting (proofreader) and computer literate (typesetter, transcriptionist, data entry clerk, unofficial IT lady at two offices I worked as a temp.). I am unemployed, honest and politically aware...and frightened. I have been trying to volunteer to check voter rolls with True The Vote but they are always on hold. If there is some data entry type thing I could do for you I would love to be useful. I would have to get into the site and see how it works before I could have an improvement idea. I haven't done that yet. I was so excited to hear what you have already done. I HAVE had the experience of trying to use your site and not having the time to research as much as I wanted but it was very long ago and I was not thinking of submitting input. Can't wait to hear from you.

Richard F. Page says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 5:56 p.m.

What can the average citizen do to help? I can't help but think that our time is running out in which the American political system can be 'saved'...

Mike A Yinger says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 5:56 p.m.

This is a TGIF off-the-cuff effort and not original, but what the heck, it's 5:30PM and everyone's gone home but me.

I'd like to know more about how your 'code' works. I'd hope that you have a schema or ontology defined, that informs and supports your 'coding'. In otherwords, the devil-is-in-the-details of how you 'code' the data and consumers of the data should be able to investigate your ground-rules. You might look at http://www.topquadrant.com/products/TB_Composer.html

Take a look at: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/collusion/ I'm pretty sure that the client side of the visualization is using http://d3js.org/

It may sound counter-productive, but I'd give open access to the data through a simple API (look at http://www.programmableweb.com/ for ideas) Allow all comers access to the coded data and tools to build/mashup their own visualization applications and of course they may project a biased view, but then who doesn't. A given visualization will probably generate revenue by the ads that appear in the margins. I'd suggest that you rate the API's applications based on level of bias as a function of faithfulness to the ontology.

Good Luck. I like what you are doing.

Mike Yinger

Stephen Comfort-Mason says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 6 p.m.

re ought to be a way to visually present the relationship(s) between lobbying organizations, the money they put into specific issues, any specific candidates/office holders, and the resulting legislative or regulatory actions.

Peg Johnston says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 6:01 p.m.

Are you aware of the work of Heather Ault, artist and pro choice researcher. Her site is 4000 Years for Choice and her fb page is her laboratory. She has found that people respond to colorful images with quotes but not just words. She can be contact through her website.

Patrick Drake says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 6:26 p.m.

Engineering(i)Physics=Algorithm

Don Reese says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 6:45 p.m.

I don't under stand how the country (United States) can be in Financial trouble , cutting jobs to Americans cutting social security and other programs to Americans. The government still is giving away millions in aide to other countries. And it seams that no one is asking any questions or wanting any explanation about it. We the people should be asking our representatives to explain.

Maryann D'Angeli says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 7:48 p.m.

I can't offer technological advice, but I do have an idea. I suggest we connect with Stephan Colbert for increased exposure and potential fundraising. Last year his SuperPac demonstrated how deep-pocket donors could anonymously impact the political process. If he were to endorse our impartial, non-partisan approach to voter education, I think we'd have access to all the support we need. I'd love to see Richard as a guest on "The Colbert Report"!

Chad Charles says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 7:51 p.m.

The simplest method of accountability would be to have representatives paid by their constituency, and only by their constituency. Salary and perks must be approved by voters in their district, electorate, and/or electoral boundaries. The same with election financing. No money may be used for advertisement or campaigning unless its origin is demonstrated to have come from the electorate of that specific race.

Marlene Brown says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 8:07 p.m.

Okay... one problem is getting people aware of your project. I had a meeting yesterday with local former Montana Legislator, Wanda Grinde. You may find that she has some ideas on that.

As for me... I always pick up on the writing errors, such as misspellings, plural words missing the final s, punctuation problems, and redundancy (saying the same thing more times than is necessary). If you like, put me on your list of copy editors. That would be how I can help you best with my own skills. I have found numerous such problems in your writing already. It would be nice to eliminate such things since they can be distracting.

becky says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 8:28 p.m.

thank you i did use this site on the last voting sesion, it was helpful but i also did some back ground checks. i do like that you listed what way they voted on topics like abortion. would like to know about there family growning up small town invoved in any thing boyscot leader ect. also there choise that they would make about animals shelter no kill, to keep child melters in prison. there were no info. on those things. i did like that a few people that i voted for answered my questions on facebook and i still comunicate on facebook with them. it shows me that, they are real people that dont have anything to hide, they keep in touch with the people. a good sign.but thank you. it was the frist time i looked up every person in the election, and yes it took time, but they are running the country, and will they do the right thing,so we all need to know who and what they are. yes a record of there days they voted i liked. and there stands on important issues,we need to know. and the ones that wont tell you are no good.thank you for the helpful site.

Nick says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 8:38 p.m.

I think that the mobile app would be a great idea because everyone is always on the go and it makes the information more accessible. Plus, the mobile app could use smartphone GPS systems to use zip code data to automatically populate the user's representative and candidate information so it is easier to view the political courage test results and voting record information. It would also be great if the mobile app included a copy of the user's state constitution along with the U.S. constitution.

Nick says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 8:44 p.m.

The question that we should ask ourselves is, how do these new items under consideration add value to the lives of the user? If the new tool is something relevant to the user that makes voting and information easier to obtain it will take hold. Also, the mobile app should definitely highlight shifts in policy position through both votes and public statements. If there is data that shows the policy shift coincides with new campaign donations it should be easy to show. This will make it easier for users to investigate monetary motivations rather than constituent motivation.

R. Powell says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 8:57 p.m.

In terms of campaign funding, how about a "pigs at the trough" motif?

The pig could represent the candidate, and the trough could have different farmers shoveling cash into separate piles of different sizes, related to the level of their contributions. Of course given the levels of campaign funding these days, perhaps it should be dump trucks backed up to the trough, unloading their piles of cash.

Maybe represent monied interests as pigs at the trough, expecting a payoff after the candidate's election. You could use the size of any pig, or the size of its pile of slop, to indicate relative money spent/contributed.

Another variation might be piglets suckling at a sow's teats. More piglets = more interests to satisfy. The relative size of the piglet = relative contribution. You might color the piglets differently to indicate the various classifiable funding sectors which they represent.

It might be fun to show the sow's (candidate's) level of satisfaction through the distension of its belly, or show levels of its distress as a function of how many different piglets are lined up to suckle at a limited number of teats.

If you don't want to be quite as cynical as I, maybe use a piggy bank motif, or stacks of cash (as bar charts).

Ralph says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 8:59 p.m.

Many sources are no more than celebrity based, and as a Conservative, I don't waste my time on them. Still, relating to voters is a key, and with the average legal American these days, the last thing they see is a pay raise, and Obama gave Congress, and most government employees raises, of the tax payers. That is one thing I would make our representation have to give back, in fact take a cut in pay.

I would also point out that most politicians that are in over eight years, seem to have a mentality change of entitlement, and I would call for representation to vote on term limits, and this also goes to all positions of judicial branches too.

I also would call for the enforcement of Capital Punishment on Congress, to quit the social justice playground, and equal justice of automatic death, per restitution, of convicted murderers, rapists and molesters...and because most people lie these days, bearing false witness, leading to an honest man or woman put to death, through their lying or setting them up, also would be put to death for that action.

Philip Litrel says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 9:20 p.m.

Trying to stay informed is one of the most difficult things to do , today and throughout history. But with the internet and current and improving tech it would seem to be easier. But unfortunately it is also much more complicated and sophisticated and requires more "ontopidness" of the learning curve. Your efforts in this regard should be useful for all us "sheeple" looking to stay ahead of the curve. The thing that I look for mostly is adjendas and if they are you describe earlier as "just the truth folks" then for the time that you can continue to do that you should be applauded and have my personal support. But then I am on the short list being 77 and retired (but I will still be watching you for as long as I can). Good luck!

Louise Beveridge says...

Posted on March 8, 2013 @ 10:06 p.m.

I try to keep up and act on the areas that I can.I was taught that government was by and for the people,and we need to get active and vote folk out when their brain seems to stop listening.No one wants to do anything other than what they want.I can do a few things with my pc I don't have a lot of money,but I will share.keep in touch

Pete W. Pfeiffer says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 2:24 a.m.

One growing problem is the rising use of robotic assistants or stations. "Baxter" sells for maybe $22,599, is simple to program for pick and place operations.

What happens to the human operator? Should Baxter be treated like an employee? If not, what kind of regulation should apply to greater productivity (Which doesn't currently require employment taxes or employee benefits)?

Hmm.

Chandra says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 3:40 a.m.

College students are some of the most innovative people on the planet. I suggest getting the word out to Professors asking them to perhaps make this into a project while attending certain classes or for extra credit. I am willing to send out some letters if you would provide the wording and make it short and sweet. I will provide paper and stamps as much as I can with my unemployed limited funds. Vote Smart is well worth working on a project such as this. :-)

Jim Barfoot says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 4:15 a.m.

Money flowing into political campaigns has its greatest impact in producing advertising (propaganda). That means TV ads. If voters could be convinced that such ads are less reliable than, say, an easily accessible, reliable online source of information on which to base their choices (sound familiar?), it begins to break the link between money and politics. This is possibly the greatest benefit of Vote Smart to our democracy.

Perhaps the tremendous computing power it takes to coordinate the data could be distributed widely, and inexpensively, like the SETI at home project has already demonstrated is possible.

Dan Chase says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 5:58 a.m.

I don't have any ideas for the visualizations, but as far as getting the coding done and reviewed, is there any way you could do use the zooniverse model and get people to volunteer to work with the data online to help you? It would also give you wider support and exposure. Keep up the good work!

Dan Chase says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 6:36 a.m.

Actually, I do have an idea for the visualizations - involve some artists and art students. Expressing ideas, data, whatever, in an artistic format, visually, musically, whatever, is what they are trained to do.

Darrell Russell says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 7:25 a.m.

One of the most important things to accomplish is voter identification. The argument from the democratic party is the inconvenience and accessibility to do so. Well every one has to register to vote so the ID could be obtained at the same time.Each and every year when the less fortunate are going to their respective agencies to collect their financial assistance they could also obtain a photo ID. Voter ID the most important thing.

Karl Blanding says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 7:51 a.m.

I suggest you have access to thousands of people like me who would be willing to do data entry from our pc. We would need to pass an objectivity screening, etc. But the potential is certainly there.

I am excited about what you are doing.

Diana Krantz says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 8:24 a.m.

I could enter data for an hour or two each week from home, if this ever became a feasible approach.

Kevin Nixon says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 9:01 a.m.

For the past four years I have listen to friends and family sit and talk about how this country is being run into the ground, but I haven't seen them do anything about it. This country is falling and has fallen from being the country it once was. We have allowed people that could speak eloquently and with such vigor, run this country, yet have no true love for this country and it's success. Only for their on personal gain. George Washington is held up as being our greatest leader, and should be, yet our history books say that he "possessed only modest speaking ability," but he wanted to see this country succeed. For this country to return to a more prosperous country it needs to return to God. The One in whom brings about prosperity. The Lord has been removed from every aspect of this country so that none would be offended. How absurd of us. A very important word was spoken long ago "Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of host." Malachi 3:7

Rachel Rosenthal says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 9:30 a.m.

It doesn't sound like this is what you are looking for, but I remember a suggestion someone made when I was an intern there this past year. They suggested creating a "badge" that candidates who have taken the PCT can put on their campaign site saying that they have political courage. The badge could link to their completed PCT. It would be a way to reward candidates who take the PCT and also increase visibility. Another suggestion someone made was allowing people to ask hotline question via Twitter. Then all of that person's Twitter connections would find out about PVS.

Drew Reimer says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 10:40 a.m.

My suggestion for the format is based upon "hiring" candidates with "job interviews" by a voter/user. 2 steps: I gather/list my issues/priorities (from the array displayed), then "interview" each candidate (by applying my issue/priority list) for each job my vote represents. The system, based on my residence, can feed to me both the jobs/votes I will be presented with and the candidate/applicants for each (maybe collected at a "table"?)
After all, these candidates work for us, the taxpayer! WE ARE THE BOSS

Pro-Life says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 11 a.m.

Rachel Rosenthal's idea of allowing a candidate to link from his website to his Political Courage Test is very good. This will expose the candidates who refuse to take the PCT. The badge, or logo, of Project Vote Smart could become a generally recognized symbol.

CHARLES ANDERBERG says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 11:23 a.m.

Want to Second M.D'Angeli's suggestion to get Stephen Colbert involved with your worthy cause.He is a national treasure and very aware of political shenannigans.He has already done a huge srvicein exploring and explaining SuperPacs

Fran Greenlee says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 11:37 a.m.

Contact all non-partisan organizations to participate i.e., The League of Women Voters; ACLU; Service Nation (Americorp); All University Art/Computer Design/Politicial Science Departments, etc.

Contact WEB sites of all political groups and advise them of your proposal.

Contact of all media interests who already utilize your efforts. They should join in the fund raising.

Contact Silicon Valley enterprises: Google, Yahoo, etc.

I like the foregoing ideas:

1)putting a badge of courage on candidate sites who willingly answer questions. 2)and especially the idea of contacting Steven Colbert to utilize the funds he raised for his SuperPac to benefit this voter project. 3) Though registration is not a part of your effort, Since photo IDs are being required by so many states: photo IDs should be available at the point of registration: i.e. County Clerk's Offices - or even street registrars by utilizing cell phones. Those already registered could get a photo I.D. at these point; or allow photo IDs taken by volunteers in areas where an individual may have trouble traveling. Something state registrars would probably have to approve - or congress. But, the Motor/Voter Registration has proven successful.

Contact the monied intersts: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, etc., etc., to help fund this project.

Good luck in your enduring efforts to educate the voter.

Chuck Polley says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 11:39 a.m.

Since most politicians are disingenuous (want to be politically correct and not call them liars), I would like to see a contrast to what they say about an issue now and over time, versus how they vote on an issue.

John Nicholson says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 5:30 p.m.

The giant in the world of clear, meaningful graphic display of data is Edwark R. Tufte, currently at Yale. Google him, pore through his books ( "Visual Explanations", "Envisioning Information" and "The Visual Display of Quantitative Inormation") and be inspired.

John Nicholson says...

Posted on March 9, 2013 @ 9:14 p.m.

Another thought... To get more people aware, suggest to Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. that as a public service during an election cycle, they post a "VoteSmart"symbol link on their opening pages.

MICROBIOBOB says...

Posted on March 10, 2013 @ 11:51 a.m.

There are many good ideas mentioned here, but, nothing gets done because, I feel, that Congressional members have made laws and regulations that protect there personal future and ability to get re-elected. The only way I see this being changed is by massive petitions to "our representatives" to make the necessary changes in campaign finance, gerrymandering and other issues like term limits. Nothing will really be done without an "uprising" by the electorate that let's the politician know who's really in charge.

A.E.Wallace Maurer says...

Posted on March 10, 2013 @ 5:42 p.m.

I have never yet failed to capture, within a minute, details I need by tracking in Google or Wikipedia. I have not yet paused to analyze what there is about me or the anticipatory intellectual platforms or cognitive sequences of their finest most sensitive pathmakers or intuition followers to see why that's the successful case. I would suggest that you invite their finest in to your presence for a huddle over the issue.

Doseofreality says...

Posted on March 11, 2013 @ 7:43 a.m.

You are on a fantastic track. Keep up the good work. The essential ingredient is rabid bi-partisanship. Country hungers for it. Too much spin and deceit on both sides. Integrity, integrity, integrity.

Raney says...

Posted on March 13, 2013 @ 2:39 p.m.

Very strong idea especially on the need for more access to clear voter information. Varied skill sets are needed for such a large project. Useability and visual communication skills are needed, as well as programming. Need to add to how you will go about creating code. I agree with Mike Yinger, that you do a mashup. Not ready to get involved until you clarify what you need.

Bert A Loftman says...

Posted on March 13, 2013 @ 3:39 p.m.

It is not what they say but how they vote that counts. My web site scores the votes of the GA state politicians: http://www.electtherightcandidate.us/ETRC/Elect_The_Right_Candiate.html

sarah says...

Posted on March 14, 2013 @ 4:43 a.m.

In paragraph 3 you state that Congressional Quarterly 'pulled the plug' on your Key Votes Division. Please explain!

Keep up the good work!

theCuteCat says...

Posted on March 15, 2013 @ 2:01 p.m.

Post this as a project on kickstarter!!! it's a crowdfunding site, and you really could gain a lot of support for it there!

Grant Rostig says...

Posted on March 15, 2013 @ 2:30 p.m.

I am one of the candidate who did not fill in the survey! The reason I didn't was because I was not allowed to mention it in my campaign as a Republican for State Senator in Texas' 21st district in 2012 in the both the primary and general election. I probably would have promoted this great website and so would many other politicians if you guys would allow us to. With regard to opposition research, of course we use it to research out opponent. Who wouldn't do that. It will happen no matter what the website prohibits, or political parties say about it. I called staff there and had to push hard for the staff member to even promise to bring it to senior management. So this is my second attempt. Get real, information has to flow and that is how your website will get the attention it deserves. Do I win the $1000 prize? I'm serious, candidates mentioning this website would massively increase it's readership.

Vote Smart Fan says...

Posted on March 27, 2013 @ 12:47 p.m.

I think important issues are 1. making it easy to see where the money is coming from both in terms of who is giving the money, who or what issue is receiving it and the geography of where the money is coming from down to the zip code, Google Maps mash up can help with the geography issues. 2. Finding a way to make subtle policy position more easily expressed and understood. Not every issue is a simple yes or no, like immigration.

A B says...

Posted on April 1, 2013 @ 5:24 p.m.

I think you're focusing way too much on "snazzy graphics" and not enough on "useful information".

What we need is an OkCupid for elections. An enhanced combination of the features of ElectNext (RIP), VoteEasy, and ISideWith.com/political-quiz

Create a profile, enter your address so it knows your districts, then answer a bunch of questions about your opinions on different political issues and how important each is to you. Include lots of different topics, not just the handful of talking points you have on VoteEasy. The site will then notify you of relevant legislation being considered, helping you write to your representatives when you say that you support or oppose it (maybe just link to PopVox), remind you to register for upcoming elections, remind you of the elections themselves (both national and local), and show you which candidates are the best match for you, both based on their past voting record, collaborative filtering, and their official platform (and maybe a ranking taking into account their likelihood of actually winning). Also hold them accountable when they vote against my interests or their own promises (like popvox.com/home/match)

"You have only participated in 13% of possible elections. Click here to register for your town legislator election. You're 87% compatible with candidate Smith, and he's projected to win 47% of the vote. You could help him win."

These are the sort of tools we need.

There are a LOT of local candidates, so candidates and users should be able to "crowdsource" the information about them. Combining the efforts of many people to produce an objective whole is the kind of thing the internet is really good at, and the media is (purposefully) bad at.

Please don't waste time developing some snazzy graphic thing that people spend 2 minutes with before becoming bored, without learning anything and without improving our democracy.

VoteEasy is great because it helps us know which candidates to vote for if we ignore entrenched party lines, not because of the pointless Flash animations. I'm actually annoyed with the flashiness of it, but with ElectNext abandoned, it's then next best thing.

A B says...

Posted on April 1, 2013 @ 5:30 p.m.

Also please clean up these comments, half of them are spam.

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