Custom Election Sites - Benefitting Voters AND Candidates

THE PROBLEM It is discouraging that we live in the most advanced democratic country in the world, and yet the following statements are true for most elections (e.g., community groups, boards, universities, local/city/state government).

  • Voters never have a strong understanding of the candidates’ views and key issues
  • Researching candidates and issues is difficult and time-consuming
  • Candidates rarely provide substance on their views and plans
  • Political campaigns are resource-intensive and do not provide voters with adequate information

THE SOLUTION The solution to these problems is a build-your-own election site (software as a service model - SaaS) that functions as a central repository of candidate-submitted information in a consistent format and length. The site allows voters to easily consume useable information about each candidate and key issue. The core content/functionality of the site includes a candidate page, an issues page and a PDF export feature for voters to download/print/distribute all of the site content. Functionality and design inspiration come from 37 Signals’ Basecamp, Squarespace, EventBrite, Google Sites, MailChimp, and SurveyMonkey.

HOW IT WORKS Prior to an election, an independent group (election organizer, board, committee, newspaper etc.) creates an Election Site and determines the fields to be included on each candidate’s profile page, key issues that each candidate will provide content for, and length/format requirements for this content (e.g., a one-page PDF, 1,000 words, 5-minute video). Once the profile fields and key issues have been determined, candidates are notified to submit/upload their content. All of the content would be made public at the same time. Voters can view candidate profile pages and each issue individually, or in comparison matrices. There would be a submission deadline and all content would become visible at the same time. At this point the Election Site can be promoted to voter constituents.

USER BENEFITS Candidates: The Election Site gives candidates a high-visibility, free, and substance-focused campaign tool. Voters: The Election Site centralizes quality and consumable information. Election Organizers: The Election Site equips election organizers with a central resource to promote.

ADDITIONAL FEATURES While the primary goal of an Election Site is to provide useable information to voters, there are many additional features that may be appropriate for certain elections. Advanced features could include: online voting, video speeches, virtual forums and town halls, campaign contribution processing, social media feeds, site templates and design/CSS customization, event calendars, news aggregators, and email updates.

FORESEEABLE CHALLENGES The usefulness of an Election Site is dependent upon candidate participation and content quality. While candidates could be required to submit content for many smaller elections (e.g., student governments at universities), there would be a greater challenge with government elections. Ideally candidates see the value in an election site and provide quality content, however, additional steps may need to be taken to ensure thorough and detailed information is provided. For example, an election organizer may require a one-page PDF on from candidates on their views on the city’s transportation issue and a separate one-page PDF on their tangible plan/ideas to address that issue. Lastly, further research is needed to determine the most appropriate person/group to initiate and manage the implementation of an Election Site (e.g., government office, independent nonprofits, local newspaper).

MARKET ENTRY VISION 0-2 Years: Election Sites are perceived as a “cool” technology and are used for student government elections 2-5 Years: Election Sites are perceived as a “useful” tool and are used by local governments and universities 5 + Years: Election Sites are perceived as a “standard” tool and are demanded by voters in every election

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