Overview: Utilizing thousands of hours of research and a vast collection of data assembled by the nonpartisan group, Project Vote Smart, this voter education tool allows the general public to quickly and easily see how closely political candidates align with their views on twelve key issues. It is the most up-to-date resource for candidate political information, including voting record, interest group ratings, campaign finances and personal biography. The navigation does not offer set paths throughout the content; instead it's based on the information needs of the visitor. Much like a choose-your-own-adventure book, visitors can choose a path based on state, zip code, district and candidate details such as campaign financing and voting records.
• From concept to completion, it took about eight months to develop the tool.
• The Project Vote Smart database serves as the site’s CMS. Massive amounts of data, about candidates and officials from the federal to the local level, was tapped into using their publicly available API. The site also makes use of financial data available through the Center for Responsiveness in Politics.
• Visitors can interact with three levels of data: exploring all candidates running in a particular state, those running in a specific district and the individual details of each candidate. Each view can be filtered based on the visitor's views on any of the twelve key issues.
Comments by Kim Rees:
What was the most challenging aspect of the project? "We were surprised by how challenging it was to remain agnostic to ideologies, especially when reviewing special interest group ratings and endorsements. Our client was adamant about remaining nonpartisan, though, so of course we were very sensitive to that."
How did this project compare with others you've worked on in the past? "Of course, we hope that all our projects will remain relevant indefinitely; VoteEasy was unique because it culminated with Election Day. Being so time-sensitive, it inspired and motivated a lot of people and really seemed to offer clarity to many who were politically disenchanted. It was extremely successful and popular with voters. There were thousands of positive comments left on blogs, Facebook and Twitter, but one in particular really moved us and made it clear that we wanted to continue working to help make government 2.0 a reality: A person identified as 'sweetiewolfie' said: 'Because of this, I just registered to vote. Also, when there are sites like these that make picking a candidate 1000X easier, I'm much more willing to vote in general.'"
Did you learn anything new during the process? "We learned many nuances about voting across the country. For instance, in New York a candidate can run under multiple parties. Also, there are a vast number of political parties in what we generally consider to be a two-party system. This year we saw how some fringe parties can make it into the limelight, such as the Tea Party and The Rent is Too Damn High party."
What would you do differently if you could start the project over? "There is so much data about politics, candidates, and voting issues. It would be great to expand VoteEasy to show aspects such as campaign financing, candidate speech analysis, and how a candidate will stand on current legislative decisions. Also, VoteEasy currently shows congressional candidates. It would be nice to fully utilize the Project Vote Smart API and expand it to handle all local, state and federal candidates and appointees."