Announcing a new feature: “MyDistricts”

Hi, reader. A long list of valid reasons has detained me from updating this site and writing political columns, but with the August election so near, I wanted to share with you the latest and get your feedback on current state and future plans for MyTicket, a new app that will help voters with their choices at election time.

This is no ordinary project. Were it a startup aimed at making a profit, the relatively low number of people who clicked to sign up would have killed it. But it’s not a startup.

And I’ve done research to make sure I wasn’t just “reinventing the wheel,” and haven’t found a tool that provides the same services as promised by our vision for MyTicket.

So let’s catch up.

If you’ll remember, some months ago I published a prototype that conceptually lays out how MyTicket would work.

Since then, I have been building a database that will hold all of the potential elections, contests, offices, districts, candidates, and candidate details; and I have populated that database with much of the basic information, thanks to the Tennessee Secretary of State’s office providing the data.

While I still don’t have all the hooks built to fetch the info from the database, I reached an important milestone this weekend. As you know, in order to personalize the experience to show just your ballot information, the app needs to know your district IDs. Many people aren’t able to supply these, and therefore many online voter guides fall short of being the most helpful. Using the Google Civic Info API that’s powered by the Voting Information Project, I can now obtain all federal, state, and local districts—down to your town council—with the simple input of a residential address.

I invite you to try it out. Enter an address like “123 Main St, Anywhere, TN” (without the quotes and using a real address, of course).

OK, so this doesn’t get us very far. Several sites already do this lookup, but they only bring back current officeholders, not candidates who are contesting the seats. And they don’t go down to local elections. But this service can be used as a first step before using a voter guide like the Chattanooga Times Free Press’s or even the sample ballots published by your local election commission. It’s not the end product, but it’s a start.

What I’m working on next:

Instead of just showing your districts on the page, they will be used in the background to locate the offices and candidates that belong to them (along with ballot questions, such as judicial retention and referenda). That will be the next milestone: just showing the static election data that belong to you, without any further interactivity.

Future plans include the ability to save your preferences; to remove candidates you’re sure you don’t want to vote for and just leave those you’re deciding among; and, somewhere out there, the ability for voters and campaigns to enter and select details about themselves so that a “match.com”-style compatibility check could be done. But first things first.

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