More and more people are searching online to find out where to vote on election day. Until now, there has been no easy answer, because there is no central database that a search engine like Google can point to.
So Democracy Club — a group of digital natives who try to make it easier to take part in democracy — is calling for GIS officers in local authorities to open up spatial data on polling districts and polling stations to help solve the problem.
The new data will power Democracy Club’s polling station finder service, WhereDoIVote.co.uk. The club hopes to increase coverage of the finder for the local elections across England, Wales and Scotland in May 2017 — and have full coverage of the UK by 2020.
Citizens are now used to quality digital services when shopping online or finding directions. Increasingly, they expect accessible and accurate information on elections too. Democracy Club saw this at the EU Referendum last June, when the online finder had over 130,000 visitors. With more data, the club could have helped more people to vote.
This approach could also help councils to avoid calls on busy election days — and to provide answers outside of a contact centre’s normal opening hours. Research by Democracy Club suggests that people who are unable to find their polling station feel as though they are being denied a vote, which harms their trust in democracy. The finder particularly benefits voters who are more transient, including renters and young people, who typically register a lower turnout at elections.
The data required is more complex than simply a list of polling stations. Every address in the UK is grouped into a geographic boundary called a polling district. Each district is allocated to a specific polling station. This means voters can’t simply vote at the station nearest them. These polling districts are unique and do not necessarily align with any other political or postcode boundary. Democracy Club requires data on districts and stations, which can provided in any geographical data format, such as KML, GeoJSON or SHP files.
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