Elections 2009: a post in two parts

Today is polling day in the county council and European Parliamentary elections. It’s an important date in the calendar. Politically it could turn out to be a significant vote for this county. It’s will also be of significance to this team and the work we do whatever the political outcome.
In a lot of ways it feels as if this day has been a long time coming as planning and work on how we will cover the election on our website and in the greater online space began at the tail end of last year. In smaller ways I would still like a bit more time to tweak and improve and do even more than we have. But time and voting waits for no web team and so here we are: polling day 2009.

What have we done so far?

  • We’ve created a new section of the site expanding and improving on content which first served in 2005. We changed to a three column layout (rest of site is two column) and tweaked the design without moving radically away from the main look.
  • We added social bookmarking to the election section. This is something we are waiting to implement across our main site and other sites we run from here so it seemed a good idea to give it a go and see what feedback we could gather and tweaks we needed before a bigger roll out.
  • We tried to make it as easy as possible for visitors to find out all the information about what they can vote for, the different methods of voting, registration, key dates in the run up, candidate and division information, other things they can vote for at different times, why it is important to vote and how and when they would be able to access results information.
    This included us linking to and featured multimedia content from The Electoral Commission, the Every Vote Counts campaign, a press section with copies of the offline campaign and linking through to the district and borough councils own information.
    We also created two short case studies – first time student voter and new to county voter – with real-life people to help people understand what they should do. This also allowed us to make links with our youth brand.
  • We have Twittered throughout the run up to elections – @Derbyshirecc
  • We made our first venture onto Facebook with a page dedicated to the elections. This provided prompts to ‘fans’ about the key dates and links through to relevant information on our site. We have also been able to use this and the associated event listing to send an email reminder (within Facebook) to ‘fans’ to remind them to vote and where the results will be.

All of this has been going on for a number of months (not full time) and has been a learning curve and exciting project for this team to get into. For the first time we have had a significant presence internally in promoting and reporting on elections. It’s provided an opportunity for us to raise awareness of our work internally and work with colleagues in other departments to enable everything to happen.
Our results system will hopefully be the jewel in the crown of what we’ve done so far. We won’t know until the dust settles tomorrow and we have some feedback from Derbyshire voters, councillors, other officers and colleagues in the public sector who are kind enough to take the time to have a look.

What we can say about our results system:

  • For the first time for this organisation we will be featuring near-to-real-time results displayed in more than one way.
  • A virtual chamber which will fill up as seats are announced – also provides break down information for all seats as announced
  • A pie chart showing the total seats held per party as the seats are announced
  • A county map with divisions colouring in as seats are announced
  • Text pages showing a break down of votes for each division
  • Twitter of results as they are announced. This will be available through our Twitter profile but also on our website.
  • Facebook page updated as seats are announced. A Facebook update will be sent to all ‘fans’ once all results are in.

These displays are also being used internally in our members’ room. On two pretty impressive big screens they will watch the results as they are announced via the virtual chamber and the county map.

So, this is what we have done and what we have in store. All that remains now is for the team to find time to go out and vote themselves and then some serious finger-crossing and possibly some flying-by-seat-of-pants action in the morning.
But, like the swan, we aim for everything to appear seamless on the online surface even if we are all paddling like mad underneath!
Counting in Derbyshire begins at 10am so keep a weather eye on the horizon for http://elections.derbyshire.gov.uk to ramp up and send us a good luck vibe, if you have one spare, for our maiden voyage in these waters.

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