For the 2013 National Day of Civic Hacking, I received a travel scholarship from Mozilla to fly to Kansas City and work on civic technology for a weekend. A problem I had been considering for a while was voter turnout, specifically in local elections where mayorships in cities like Dallas have been decided by less than 15% of the voting population. After doing some informal research, I discovered that lots of people I know had missed the most recent local elections because they weren’t even aware they happened. When I pitched the problem at the event, I had lots of people interested in working to solve it, and we managed to get a team of 7 together of mostly non-developers and non-designers.
Our weekend of work consisted of lots of research, a few wireframes, and a name and logo (because 50% of all time spent at hackathons is worrying about the name and logo). But the research was good. We managed to figure out exactly what sort of information people would like to receive and how to receive it. We also discovered that finding out when every local election would be just for a single city and county was crazy hard even for civically plugged in individuals eligible to vote in those elections.
To sign up, people we talked to said they would love to do it online or at their local polling place after voting. We talked to a member of the county election commission, who said it seemed reasonable and probably wouldn’t break any rules.
For the signup interface, people wanted lots of options, which we narrowed down to city, county, state, and national checkboxes to keep things as simple as possible. For notifications, most people said emails, while a few older individuals wanted phone calls or postcards.
We determined that to collect the data for a main repository of some sort, we would need to crowd source information. This would have to be open to anyone to submit new elections including at least a date and a link to some official source for the info. There would likely also be a moderator in each municipality to verify the information before it became public. Partnerships with local organizations like the League of Women Voters or city/county Republican and Democrat groups would also be ideal, because they could provide information like official positions of candidates that our research indicated people would want to see in an email.