Election sites that track positions on issues on a per-candidate basis?
August 19, 2014 10:38 AM   Subscribe

There's a municipal election coming up, and a friend of mine is hoping to develop a Web site that allows users to cycle through key questions (e.g. "Do you think the city should allow a casino to be built downtown?" "Do you support the closure of the Simpson History Museum?") and see the positions of various candidates, grouped by electoral district. Can you think of a Web site that does such a thing? Bonus points if it's created by a group that might be willing to share their infrastructure.

In more detail: the ideal version of this is one where the home page lets a user click through various questions, and at a glance see which candidates are in support or opposed to the question being asked. The candidates will be able to contribute a more nuanced answer than "yes" or "no," and clicking on their picture will let you see their full response to the question. Additional features would include things like "propose a question for the candidates," and possibly ongoing post-election tracking to see how what they do following the election matches up to what they said prior to it.

I feel like I've seen this kind of thing before, but now that I'm actually looking for some models, of course I can't find any. My friend and the people he's working with have lots of energy and goodwill and some CMS and WordPress experience, but not a lot of programming skills per se, so in the best of all possible worlds they're looking for some sort of robust template/platform that can be adapted and re-used by them for our local election. Just plain good examples of sites that do this sort of thing well will be a huge help and inspiration too, though.
posted by Shepherd to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know anything about the programming part, but I've used ISideWith and found it to be fairly useful. VoteSmart doesn't appear to be updated for the midterms.
posted by Etrigan at 10:48 AM on August 19, 2014

Check out Vote411, which is run by the League of Women Voters. You have to put in an address to get a personalized ballot. Their interface isn't my favorite, but it does let you compare pairs of candidates and their answers to a list of questions.
posted by yarntheory at 10:58 AM on August 19, 2014

Vote Smart definitely provides a framework along the lines of what you're looking for. You can click on each candidate's photo and get a list of public statements they've made, bills they've voted on, bills they've introduced, and what sort of political views are espoused by those statements and votes. Their VoteEasy project appears to be President-only, but it does ask you for your viewpoints on a variety of issues and then matches you up with a candidate.

OnTheIssues' quiz hasn't been updated since the 2012 election, but it does give you a questionnaire to match you up with a candidate.

And OpenSecrets will show you a list of the various organizations and individuals from which a given candidate has received donations and fundraising efforts (broken out by donors, PACs, and industries). Following the money probably does a better job of displaying where the candidate's loyalties lie than anything else could; if your candidate makes public statements saying one thing while taking in oodles of cash from an industry that works in direct opposition to that stated viewpoint, you'd be wise to stay wary.
posted by divined by radio at 11:07 AM on August 19, 2014

Project Vote Smart does this by candidate. It's the only one I know of that attempts to list whether each person is for or against an issue. Ballotpedia might have something like that somewhere, but I don't recall. Open States aggregates and tracks legislation and it shows how legislators have voted on certain issues at a glance.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:47 PM on August 19, 2014

Best answer: Seconding MySociety, and here's some of their code on GitHub - a developer could just clone or fork it, with attribution or whatever their license allows for, of course.
posted by symphonicknot at 1:22 AM on August 20, 2014

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