Have you ever shown up at the polls, only to realize that there are a slew of down-ballot races you know nothing about? Never heard of the candidates, maybe never even heard of the office?! On October 8, 2016 Code for Asheville volunteers gathered at Basecamp AVL to see if we could come up with some tools to help. Among those joining us were Corinne Duncan, the Buncombe County Board of Elections GIS specialist, and Asheville Blade editor David Forbes.
We’re very excited about the result at votingtools.org. As a registered voter, you can enter your name to get a quick summary of your registration information, a link to your sample ballot, and a personalized list of all the races and candidates, with links to campaign websites and local media searches for information on the candidates. As you review the races, you can make selections and then print out a compact list of your decisions at the end to take to the polls.
But wait, there’s more!
As the larger group worked on the voting information tool, Jay Hill and Zac Baston focused on helping people find the best early voting site. Jay built a tool that County election workers are using to report (via text message) the number of people in line at their location throughout the day. Buncombe County uses this data to populate the “What’s the Wait?” map on their website. The system has also enabled automation of the hourly reports of voter line length to the State Board of Elections. In the future, the data can help the County understand which locations, days of the week and times of day are most and least busy in order to provide the most effective and efficient services to the voters of Buncombe County in future elections.
Zac then used the information provided through Jay’s API to create a Find-An-Early-Voting-Site app that lets citizens enter an address or use their GPS to discover the five closest polling places, together with information about the site, including hours, driving directions, and the current line length.
We are excited about the results of the hackathon and all the effort before and after. We’re especially excited about the relationship we have begun with Buncombe County and the Board of Elections. Perhaps these initial experiments can lead to even better tools the next election!
In the meantime, please help us spread the word about these tools between now and November 8!