Many people have put forward ideas for increasing the turnout in local elections. In our neighbouring Coleridge ward, there’s an independent candidate, Puffles The Dragon Fairy, who believes one of the answers is to get politicians more involved with social media, because that’s where most people get their information nowadays. I applaud Puffles’ efforts, but I believe there’s an even simpler and more fundamental way of increasing engagement, and that’s just to give people the basic information about each election. All I’m asking is for every voter to be sent a one-page sheet of paper from the council (and a link to a complementary web page), listing what each forthcoming election is for, how the voting system works, and who the candidates are. That would be a great start. Or let’s really go to town and give the voters the whole background to the election, including the results of the previous election for the whole council, the results of the previous election in their ward, and links to the candidates’ contact details and online information.
It’s not hard to do. I know – because I’ve now done that for this election. Here then is an independent guide to the 2014 Cambridge City Council Election in Queen Ediths. Simply by reading the page I’ve put together, voters of Queen Edith’s will have far more idea about what they’re voting for than residents in any of the other 13 wards of the city. It took me just a couple of hours. With the ability to request information from the candidates with their nominations, it would have taken someone at the council even less time.
Is it of interest to voters? You bet it is. I accidentally put the unfinished page “public” six days ago. There were no links to the page, but somehow Google found it. Already, 69 people have taken a look. That’s hardly an internet viral sensation, but it’s an indication that people are searching for information about the election already. They won’t normally find much. I believe that providing this sort of information widely is the single biggest service the council could give to local democracy after running the elections themselves efficiently. If you agree, contact your local councillors (or current candidates!) and see if they’ll support the idea.
Click here to see the guide. Follow the links in the candidate information panels, and make a more informed decision on 22 May.