Political accountability & data

Before an election date draws near, political parties and candidates often flood voters with messages about their track record or their oppononents track record. There is a ton of smear and mud slinging which makes it hard to determine the facts.

Campaigns also send you a party checklist that says “our party” should vote “this way” on the following candidates and various propositions. I understand the goals of these voting materials but it feels lacking on so many levels.

For each election (local, state, federal) I do my best learn about the issues and candidates. Then my own process goes something like this:

1. vote for the best candidate regardless of party.

2. If I don’t know the candidate I vote democrat or green

3. if I’m still stuck after process#2, then I vote female over male.

4. I vote for the propositions that I care about and that I’ve researched in advance or the ones that my wife tells me to vote for (half kidding).

I very much value how our elected officials perform while they are in office. But that data has been tricky to acquire and make sense of for all of our elected officials.

Thankfully (or finally) Senate votes are now available in XML. That is fantastic. I am confident that we will see web services and iphone apps presenting this data along with helpful content & links related to those votes.

This is just a start however.

There is a lot more data we need to do our job better as voters and citizens.