opendatastudy

Research on Open Data and Transparency

Which online tools can really help you decide how to vote?

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The 2015 election has brought voters a plethora of helpful tools. Here’s how to use them. Away from the ground war in the streets and air war in the mainstream media, the 2015 election is, in many ways, an online affair. The parties are spending big on social media campaigns and even offering reward points to supporters for sharing content.

The election is also driving a whole new suite of online voting tools for voters.These new tools can help the electorate find out a great deal about an election, from basic information such as who is standing, to how your MP has voted and even the “power” of your vote. Here’s a selection of some of the top sites.

Who should I vote for?

Vote for Policies allows you to assess the policies of different parties “anonymously”. It offers you a list of policies in areas such as immigration, the economy or education, without telling you which party they belong to, and asks you to select which most applies to your views. It then tells you which party best reflects your answers.

A recent survey of the site found that 50% of users surveyed considered changing their vote after having used it – and a full 63% were surprised to discover which policy belonged to which party. And in the same vein, Who Gets My Vote offers a range of policies, one at a time, and asks if you agree or disagree with them.

If you’re looking for something with a little more local flavour, the crowdsourced database of 2015 candidates yournextmp offers a snapshot of everyone in your constituency who wants to be your MP and is running. It also contains links to their history in the area, Wikipedia mentions and their social media presence. It’s still under construction so keep checking.

Does my vote count?

Tools are also available to help you understand the local context of your vote too. The democratic dashboard tells you your local constituency results since 2005, to help you find out about how your party of choice has fared in the past before you cast your vote. It also includes information on the deprivation ranking of your local area and the amount being spent on campaigning there by different parties.

Perhaps most importantly, it also offers a voter power index, which explains how much your vote is worth. This tells me that my constituency is a fairly safe seat, so my vote has 0.29% (or a third) of the power of the one person one vote we are all supposed to have. This helps make the case for proportional representation, which is beginning to rumble again.

Are they worth my vote?

If you want to check up on how sitting MPs have performed during their time in Westminster, the famed TheyWorkforYou scrapes data on all sitting MPs. It can tell you how an MP has voted on issues that matter to you and what they have said in debates.

This site attracted record numbers at the 2010 election, including one in five users who said they had not previously engaged in politics. You could even cross reference what you find out on this site with the information available on public whip to see who voted the way you would like in the House of Commons.

And if you want to see if your local candidate is making promises they can’t keep or maybe playing fast and loose with the truth, you can use Full Fact to see if their policies bear any relation to reality. Further down the line, you might want to remember just what it was candidates were promising when you voted for them. Perhaps my favourite site for this is electionleaflets.org.

This is an online notice board where users can upload images of election leaflets to record what their local candidates say they will do if elected. You can search for leaflets by party or by local area. It’s aiming for 10,000 leaflets uploaded by 7th May and has an archive of 6,000 from the last election. That’s a lot of information that could prove very useful for holding your elected representative to account over the course of the next parliament.

Will it work?

All these tools enable us to know far more about candidates, policies and, more generally, what they have been doing than ever before. They could make things messy, chaotic and unpredictable by challenging our long-held beliefs about the parties and the candidates. But they may also enable voters to become players in the political information cycle rather than just passive recipients of election spin.

With voters now more focused on single issues, these new sites give us a way of quickly finding out who has said and done what or who stands for what across many different issues. This time around, we won’t need to wait for a YouTube mash-up to know if the next Nick Clegg has u-turned.

This article was originally on the Conversation.

 

 

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