Helping voters find out where to vote

At today’s AEA conference, our Chief Executive Claire Bassett talked about our partnership with Democracy Club and how local authorities can get involved to help voters find better information about elections online.

Finding polling stations online

We are supporting Democracy Club’s work to improve digital services around elections. We believe that in this day and age, it is only right that voters expect to be able to find information – including the location of their polling station – online.

voting-at-a-polling-station

Voting at a polling station

Who are Democracy Club?

I’ll hand over to Joe Mitchell at Democracy Club to explain…

Democracy Club is a voluntary, non-partisan organisation that aims to make the process of democracy better for everyone. We build digital services, aggregate and clean data, manage crowdsourcing and partnerships to make this happen.

Our services have been used by 1.4m people to get better informed before elections; our data has been used by the likes of Google, Buzzfeed, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph.

One of the tools we provide is an online polling station finder.

We will be providing the same service for the May 2017 elections (and beyond). We believe that if a voter wants to find their polling station, it is better both for them and the local council if they can do it online.

We just need data from local authorities to make it happen. If you share your data, voters in your area will be able find this information online, rather than calling you!

Find out more at https://democracyclub.org.uk/projects/polling-stations/

How is the Electoral Commission involved?

Our aim is to put voters first. From our early conversations with Democracy Club, it was clear that their work is of real benefit to voters

This is not a partnership we entered into lightly. We initially had many of the same questions we know administrators have had, such as:

Q. What if a polling station changes?

Joe: One of the advantages of digital data is that it is easier to update than paper polling cards. If you publish to a web address, we will regularly check the address. So all you need to do is ensure that when the data changes, you republish to the same web address. Alternatively, you can email us with the updates and we will make the changes as soon as possible – usually within hours)

Q. How will voters be given the correct polling station, as opposed to simply the nearest one?

Joe: Where data is of a good standard, this is mitigated entirely. It’s vital that councils either publish the districts as well as the stations, or alternatively, publish the entire Address-to-Polling-Station lookup table, so that voters are matched correctly. If we only get a list of polling station locations, there’s nothing we can do with that data, so voters will have to call their council.

Our conversations with Democracy Club quickly answered our questions – their expertise was obvious.

For polls in 2016, we directed users of our About my Vote website to Democracy Club’s websites in order to help voters find the answer to two common questions – who are the candidates and where is my polling station?

This worked well so now we are looking to take this one step further. Voters will be able to find information directly on our website.

We believe this will not only help voters but will also reduce the burden on administrators who might otherwise be fielding calls – one administrator recently told us they took over 580 calls on polling day, with calls lasting two minutes on average.

Making it happen

I would urge all elections staff to ask the question: “would voters in my area want find their polling station online?” If the answer is “yes”, sharing your polling station data with Democracy Club is the best way to make it happen.

Not only will your voters be able to find this on our website but you will also be able to have a polling station finder on your own site.

It does not require significant additional work for you. We know that every local authority’s situation is different and that data will be held in different ways – but it is highly likely that the data you hold can be used to provide this service. No personal data is required.

This is a service that we hope many local authorities will use in May – don’t miss out.

Simply get in touch with Democracy Club, or if you would prefer, the Commission, with any questions.

Emma Hartley, Head of Campaigns

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