Author: Seb Bacon
What NEED does this meet?
People standing as MPs or councillors want to get elected. Voters (I hope) would welcome the chance to be able to differentiate between the names on the ballot (beyond party allegiance).
What is the APPROACH?
Let’s consider a general election. We get a list of everyone standing in the election. We get them to write short responses to their position on key issues.
Voters can type in their postcode and see the candidates and their positions on these issues. Perhaps they can write to the candidates on particular issues and have the candidates placing responses on the website. Perhaps voters can suggest local issues to prompt candidates about.
Getting more fancy, perhaps we can ask a voter some questions about themselves and then rank the candidates in order of most-similar-to-their-own-opinions.
What are the BENEFITS to people?
I can think of loads of reasons this is a great idea, but here are some (OK, some of them are kind of the same):
- I could find out more about who is standing and thus become more involved in the democratic process, just by typing in my postcode.
- I would actually have a choice to vote on the person and not just the party – something I believe a lot of people would like to do if they could be bothered to find enough information to compare the individuals
- Independents and fringe candidates who can’t afford to leaflet everywhere get a free platform for their opinions.
- A forced format asking for (say) no more than 100 words on (say) education should make different candidates more comparable and (slightly) less amenable to spin, making it easier for us not to hate party-political literature
- If we can implement the sort-by-closeness-to-my-opinions algorithm, it makes it easier to see through the party allegiances to the actual issues
- Candidates are made more accountable to voters and less to their whips
- A nice historical archive of peoples opinions can be kept online – more accountability, post-election. i.e., it should be easier to find out if a given candidate went back on their promises (also how their opinions have changed over time)
- All the opinions of all candidates for (say) the Lib Dems on (say) income tax could be compared, to see how (for example) completely inconsistent they are on that issue
What is the COMPETITION?
I don’t know of any competition.
What BUDGETS & LOGISTICS are required?
I think technically this is all pretty easy and big parts from other mySociety projects should be reusable. I’m not sure how easy it is to get lists of candidates in electronic format though – this needs researching.
The main problems are social ones. Problems I’ve thought of so far:
- getting candidates to bother using the system at all – especially given the fact that they’re not likely to appreciate being made more accountable
- getting voters to bother using the system at all
- who decides on what the issues are on which candidates write?
I’ve not come up with answers to these yet but I’m confident they’re solvable with some beer-inspired inspiration.
A very effective starting point is to use the NPAT form from vote-smart.org. Here is an example:
You can publish these for each representative, and if they don’t fill it in, point their voters to writetothem with a letter telling them to fill it in, so we know.