Tag Archives: voter guide

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.

My, you look Marvel-ous

I have been drafting some screens to see how the voter helper app might look. Thanks to some pretty cool technology that didn’t exist years ago when I first had the idea, you can see these sketches as they’d appear on an iPhone, and actually move through them. It’s a bit of a bold step for me to reveal these in this rough a state, but just know that I know how much work there is to do.

Only a few of the “buttons” have been fitted with clickable “hotspots” that take you to another screen. It’s just to get the idea across. If you click somewhere outside of a hotspot, they very faintly light up to show you where they are. The jump from the Candidate Detail page to the State Primary page is not logical; it’s just there to let you see the last two screens. Let me know what you think!

I’m also toying with moving the project to InVision, since there visitors can leave comments and those comments create an instant designer/developer to-do list. But Marvel makes it easier to sync updated images. (Neither supports .sketch files, which would be best for me.)

Enough tech talk. Give me feedback on the concept, the screens, and the flow.

P.S. To those of you who signed up for the sneak preview, this isn’t it. That is still a ways off, and it will be a version of the real thing, not just click-able images. Thanks for your patience, and hopefully this helps give you an idea of what’s coming.

Vote with confidence and style

Hi there. Do you struggle with overwhelming ballot choices, especially in these years when the eight-year terms come up in addition to all the four-year and two-year offices—not to mention the legalese often found in local ordinance or state constitution changes? Do you just skip a lot of them out of confusion or frustration?

Help is on the way. Unlike published voter guides that bear the bias of a special interest group, editorial page, or political party, a new tool is under development that will let you be in charge of determining the choices that are right for you (just you, nobody else but you).

In order for this to best help you, I need your help too. Early adopters will help shape and refine the finished product for the broader public’s benefit. You want to be an influencer, right? Sign up today to be on the invitation list to try it out first!

I mean, you could just ignore this and let the political gadflies get alarmingly close to seats of power via their bizarre performance art. You could just roll over, go back to sleep, and let the power-structure fat cats smirk through another round.

Or you could literally put control of the future in the palm of your hand and exercise the amazing power of a well-informed voter. It’s up to you.

I got 99 problems plus 17 and a whole lot more

Hollar, Lollar.

I have finished building the basic voter guide page for the 2014 election in the 99-seat Tennessee House of Representatives. Before you pat me on the back, please reach for your local newspaper (or, you know, smartphone) and start scouring the media for news about these races: who’s running (and, among incumbents, who’s not); what their websites and social media accounts are; what the main issues are in their districts; who’s primarily funding them; and so on.

You are my eyes and ears around the state, in the cities and in the small towns. Were I able to clone myself and stay with my family and my job, and send my copy crisscrossing the state to poke around in local diners, barber shops, and honky-tonks for the insider tips, I would—and I know my clone would absolutely love it. But instead, you can wear the fedora and carry the notebook, and just send me a telegraph or three.

While you’re at it, you can do the same favor for me about the Tennessee Senate page, the U.S. House and U.S. Senate pages, and, if you’re in or around Chattanooga, the Hamilton County page.

These voter guides are meant to help with the critical complement to increased voter registration and turnout: that is, a more informed electorate. Thanks in advance for your kind assistance.

A five-step last-minute cram session

Some of the people nearest and dearest to my heart (ahem) have waited until today to figure out what all is on the ballot and for whom they will vote. It’s OK. I’m a huge procrastinator; it’s just that I geek out on elections, so I have the information-gathering part done already.

Here is a quick-ish “guide to the guide” that you—I mean, your friend—can use to assemble a voting plan.

Step One

First, know what kinds of elections are on the ballot beside the presidential race.

  • In Tennessee, we are electing one of our two U.S. Senators. Sen. Bob Corker is running for re-election, and faces multiple opponents.
  • All nine U.S. House seats are up, all nine incumbents are running for re-election, and all of them have opponents.
  • Some of you may have a state Senate election in which to participate; the Senate alternates even- and odd-numbered districts every two years. This time, it’s even-numbered.
  • Everyone will have a state House of Representatives election to decide. Well, in many cases there is only one candidate, but the seat’s still on the ballot.
  • There may be local elections where you live. Town councils, boards of aldermen, city commissions, and such.
  • Finally, there are often ballot measures, aka referenda, wherein the voters directly decide to implement or repeal some bit of law.

Step Two

Second, find your districts. Look at your voter registration card, if you have it. If not, you can use Project Vote Smart (federal and state only), your county election commission, these Tennessee district maps, or the Tennessee Secretary of State’s voter lookup. Remember: your districts may not be the same as the last few times. They all changed after the 2010 census.

Step Three

Find out who is running for each office in your districts. That can be done here on a combination of pages (see below), or, if you live in Hamilton County, you can simply hop over to the Nooga.com voter guide. News outlets in most other major Tennessee cities also have published something similar. (The Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News-Sentinel, e.g.)

To use Tennessee Ticket:

  1. Go to the Tennessee House of Representatives page, click on your district number near the top of the page, and you will jump to your House candidates.
  2. Go to the Tennessee Senate page, and if your district is even-numbered, click it and jump to your candidates.
  3. Go to the U.S. House of Representatives page, click on your district number near the top of the page, and you will jump to your House candidates.
  4. Go to the U.S. Senate page. There are no district numbers; all candidates are listed.
  5. Go to the President & Vice President page. All candidates on the ballot in Tennessee are listed.

Step Four

Your penultimate step is very important. You have to find out what these candidates stand for, how they’ve voted in the past (if applicable), whose pocket they’re in, and all kinds of things that, frankly, it’s too late now to expect to finish. Just do the best you can. Scour their websites. Read their tweets and Facebook messages. Search the internet for articles about them, and take everything with a grain of salt.

Step Five

Assemble your voting preferences before heading to your polling place. Write down or tap into your mobile device the name of the candidate you have chosen for each position on your ballot. Also record any decisions you have made regarding amendments or referenda. Be prepared.

Now that you have done all of these things: GO VOTE.

Thank you.