Which Seattle candidate most agrees with you? Take the all-new Alignvote quiz.

Which candidate most agrees with you in the Seattle 2021 general election? Take the all-new Alignvote quiz to find out.

I’ve just released a brand new version of Alignvote, completely rewritten and updated for the 2021 November Seattle General Election:

alignvote.com

There are four voter-candidate matchmakers for key Seattle races: Mayor, City Council 8, City Council 9, and City Attorney. And, assuming forums and questionnaires continue to develop in the race for King County Executive, there will likely be one for that race soon as well.

Are you just getting up to speed on some of the big issues in these races, and curious where the candidates stand on some key questions? Drop by Alignvote, and take the quiz. Then share it with your friends.

https://alignvote.com

Questions are sourced from candidate forums, direct questions placed to the candidates, and their positions as outlined on their campaign websites, on-the-record statements and elsewhere.

Know any undecideds?

In a poll released today, some 65% of voters were undecided in the City Attorney race, and 27% were undecided for Mayor:

Here’s a sample question, for the Mayor’s race. This question was posed at a recent forum, and answered by both general election candidates. Which one do you agree with? You can move the “Importance” slider between seven values, from “irrelevant” to “essential.”
Example question from the Mayor’s race, which was asked in a recent forum

All candidates were notified last Thursday and invited to provide additional elaboration if they’d like.

New Features

  • The voter-candidate matchmaker is now embeddable on any website, and I’d be happy to have this embedded on your site or blog. If you have a news site or blog covering city politics or the Seattle election, grab the snippet of code to embed the Alignvote Quiz on your website.
  • There’s a new “Evidence” section at the end of the stack-rankings. That section will include links to relevant news stories, tweets, commentary and more which are directly related to the candidate’s own views on the question at hand. This will likely be growing between now and November. If you have relevant stories or links to include, jot a tweet or Direct Message to @alignvote on Twitter.
  • Easier administration. A great deal of the effort was put into easier administration on the back-end. I have rewritten the code entirely from Angular/Material to React/NextJS.

On Controversy and Bias

In the 2019 cycle, Alignvote delivered over 20,000 voter-candidate rankings, and certainly generated some controversy.

Alignvote measures the level of match between you and the eight candidates in the four races above. You and the candidate are answering the same question. Alignvote simply scores the distance, weighted by the importance that you assign on these questions. The candidate with the least overall distance, weighted by importance to you on each issue, comes out on top.

How are questions sourced? Of course, these aren’t the only questions which should matter to a voter, but they are ones where the candidates often have differing viewpoints and ones in which they have made their stances clear.

As for me, the guy behind this project, like all voters and writers, I have political views. I have expressed them here on my blog, and I will continue to do so. I am not unbiased. My own views may not match your own. This is true of any blogger, tweeter, activist-blogger, TV personality or mainstream journalist covering politics.

For what it’s worth, on political quizzes and by Gallup polling, I generally score as a centrist, and I have supported Democratic, Independent and Republican candidates with varying ideologies over the years. And, since it seems a highly relevant indicator to Seattleites, I’ve never voted for Trump.

But I also realize that the term “centrist” is a subjective label. I value great public schools, affordable and convenient transit options, help for those who need it, good and accountable government, green parks, limits on services for those who refuse to partner, transparent metrics for the public which funds services, more affordable housing inventory, better solutions for those experiencing mental health or substance use crises in their lives and improved health and environmental outcomes for all.

I think that’s in part because (a) some political writers/tweeters with relatively large followings really, really don’t like when policy tradeoff questions are framed in any other terms other than the favorable ones they prefer, and (b) many candidates like to “tack toward the center” in the general and therefore do not want to be pinned down in multiple-choice options. They want the freedom to be all things to all voters for a general election.

But leadership, including civic leadership, is often about tradeoffs. If there were solutions to long-term controversies that had easy “no cost” answers, they’d have been done by now.

I think voters deserve more clarity.

To be sure, the selection of any set of questions in any poll or survey or candidate forum can absolutely result in bias.

Controversial issues can be framed in a number of ways.

Alignvote simply shows the level of match between you and the candidates on the questions. There are many opportunities to hear open-ended answers to questions (interviews, forums, meet-and-greets and more.) By design, to help voters quickly identify closest-match-to-them, Alignvote relies upon closed-ended questions, where both you and the candidate must commit to one of the answers.

And Alignvote offers candidates an option to elaborate on why they chose the option they did. Campaigns were all emailed these questions for elaboration on Thursday, September 23rd, and I would be happy to put their elaborations in for voters to hear. (They should allow up to 72 hours for their elaborations to go live.)

Find it useful? Share it, and follow on social media.

I’m very gratified to hear directly from many of you that it’s been very helpful. It’s an entirely free civic project, and is not funded by any campaign or political organization — its very modest costs are solely funded by me.

If you like it, please share it with fellow Seattleites. Options include email, Twitter, Facebook, Nextdoor, Reddit and word of mouth. Or just jot me a follow on social media. You’ll find me at @stevemur and alignvote at @alignvote. And please vote in November!

photo credit: Nitish Meena

Alignvote 2019 Wrap-Up

Reflecting on the first phase of the Alignvote project, and issuing the call for volunteers or media partners if they’d like to bring Alignvote to their local election.

The Seattle City Council election took place November 5, 2019. Voters have now cast their ballots.

It looks like we may exceed 50% turnout, which is terrific! Ballots are still being counted.

I want to extend my congratulations to the winners, and my personal and sincere thanks to those who offered themselves up for public service, who competed but fell short. It’s extremely hard and courageous to put oneself out there for public service. There were many big and bold ideas put forth by candidates.

Alignvote’s Goals: A More Informed Electorate, Greater Voter Participation

When I announced the beta of Alignvote, I noted that the main goals were a more informed electorate, an easier way to find those candidates who agree with you, and ultimately greater voter participation. I think those goals were in some sense achieved with this project, though they’re very difficult to quantify.

For me and voters who wanted to be more informed without relying heavily upon third-party “endorsements” or intermediaries, it was an unqualified success. Alignvote delivered over 13,000 candidate-voter alignment rankings, and got a lot of good feedback directly via Twitter, email and in-person. We got about fifty candidates to go on-the-record on their stances on controversial issues (where good people can disagree) with relatively little effort once the platform was live. They stated clearly what their stances are and often elaborating on why.

Alignvote was featured on local radio, television and a couple Seattle-area media publications. It was shared frequently.

Where To With Alignvote?

For now, I consider 2019’s Phase I test of Alignvote complete.

https://twitter.com/wdenmaniv/status/1191782836832890880?s=20

Many voters from left, right and center all said that it generally matched their “most aligned” (and also “least aligned”) candidates.

While at least one individual claimed it, no one ever showed any evidence that it provided bias toward one particular candidate or another. This truth became much easier to gain widespread agreement when, a few weeks after going live with the beta (and well before the August Primary), each session started generating its own unique URL (i.e., a session permalink), pointing to the log which showed both their inputs and their outputs. Given this “proof of input and output”, precisely zero voters challenged the accuracy of the resultant rankings given their input. A handful of people were asked to back up their claims of ranking skew; zero did.

That’s not to say there wasn’t legitimate concern or skepticism about Alignvote in its maiden voyage. There was, and I think is, totally legitimate concern expressed about which questions are asked, but that’s true of all endorsement or survey platforms/articles. Plus, I was limited in the launch period to those statements already on record, asked by other parties at other forums. I also wanted to have only about a dozen or so questions maximum, otherwise it would diminish the simplicity goal of the tool.

I also had to start with questions as already posed in public. That’s why the questions varied from district to district — I wanted to rely mostly upon already on-the-record answers to questions just as they were posed. Now that Alignvote has gotten some traction in its first election, it’s possible we can ask some of our own questions in the future.

In Alignvote’s most controversial moment in the first couple weeks after beta rollout, one candidate opted out of the process. That’s one candidate of more than 50. That’s fine, and his stances were removed within 3 hours of his request. He didn’t make it to the November general election.

During a brief Twitter back-and-forth, he lobbed an unsubstantiated claim that when entering his own stances (pretending to be a voter), the platform showed “top alignment” with a different candidate (which I know to be mathematically impossible given how the platform works.) When asked to show any proof of it — e.g., a screen captured recording, he did not not do so. This led me to release a session URL system which carries with it a lookup into a database showing inputs and outputs. No such claim was ever made once this system was put in place (perhaps because it would then be quite easy to show what inputs and outputs were generated.)

There was in fact just one candidate of the fourteen who made it to the general election who didn’t participate in Alignvote by at least confirming their answers via the dashboard. All others who chose not to participate didn’t make it through the primaries to the general election. All tolled, Alignvote got more than 350 on-the-record confirmed stances from candidates out to voters for their comparison, and dozens of elaborations on why they chose the answers they did.

I learned a great deal in this initial phase of the process — about politics, about the reception of such a tool, about technology and more. A provisional patent was filed on some of the unique aspects of the platform.

I plan to do a wrap-up post on Alignvote and the 2019 Seattle City Council races in the next few weeks, once the dust has settled and official winners are declared in all election races.

I hope to take a look at how closely (or not) Alignvote responses matched the actual election results, what issues were “hottest” among Alignvote voters, and more.

The code and platform is ready to go for the next election. But elections don’t happen every day, as you know, so I might be taking the site down to a “ready for the next election” level in the interim.

Which leads me to bigger plans, but to do so, I’ll need help, including inspiration and partnership:

Interested in Bringing a Better Voters Guide To Your City?

I created Alignvote to help voters more quickly identify which candidates agree most with them, particularly in crowded elections where information is there (e.g., in forums, videos, on-the-record statements) but just not very accessible to voters. The platform basically lets you quickly compare YOUR answers to questions with CANDIDATES’ answers to the exact same questions, and see how much you align.

I remain very intrigued by the possibilities of this kind of platform to improve election transparency for the future. I am not interested in revenue opportunities here, but I do think there needs to be some self-sustaining revenue (donation/partnership/etc.) to pay the bills in a sustaining way.

While the technology is pretty straightforward and was written in a very generalized way, to take this platform national, it’s far bigger than just one person.

That is, I know a reasonable amount about the issues at stake in Seattle City politics in 2019, but I know nothing about the issues that Chicago or St. Louis or New Orleans voters face.

So now, I am looking for other volunteers in other districts, nonpartisan election organizations or credible media partners who might want to take the Alignvote voters guide platform to their local races in the next election cycle.

It’s probably a good idea to make Alignvote embeddable in other websites and able to carry other partner brand names, something I’ll be looking into more extensively during this interim period.

I could see Alignvote Voters Guides evolving as a collaborative Open Source effort, and/or as a software as a service (SAAS) platform project which media companies or nonpartisan organizations pay a small fee for X months to build out and manage their own surveys.

Contact Me

Please contact me or jot a comment in the post below if you’d like to explore this.

Financially, it’s been (and will likely continue to be) a donation / labor of love to attempt to bring more transparency to government and voters, particularly in crowded local races, where I think Alignvote is most helpful.

Since there’s presently no revenue associated with this project, it’s an all-volunteer, all-donation effort, and to date, I’ve been the only donor. I’d be very interested in other municipal races using this platform, but would need good-faith editors who are familiar with the issues in the race to be “election editors.” These editors would need to:

  • Determine the proper set of initial questions, including identifying ones that are already stated on-record.
  • Ensure those questions are as neutrally phrased as possible, or at a minimum come from on-the-record, verifiable statements
  • Act as contact points with the local campaigns and press/promotional opportunities
  • Help to tie-in with local systems that report things like financial data, campaign contributions, candidate videos and more
  • Develop local “district decision maps” like the Seattle Map, helping to point voters to the appropriate election

Candidate Feedback

I’ll be sending each campaign a request for feedback on Alignvote and the process in another few weeks. In the meantime, if you are with a campaign (or a voter), if you have feedback, please don’t hesitate to drop a note to @alignvote on Twitter.

2019 Site and Data Archived

I’ve taken a snapshot of the data as it is on November 7, 2019, two days after the general election. This will remain archived. The next big City elections are happening in about two years, and will begin in about a year. The current plan is to go forward with another round of this platform.

The site will likely stay in “demo mode” for the next few weeks. The input I receive from voters, campaigns and potential partners will heavily influence next steps.

How Alignvote Works

For those who haven’t seen the platform, here’s how it works for voters:

Candidates get emailed a dashboard link, where they can confirm their stances and optionally elaborate upon them. (They can even offer up a question they’d like to see added in the survey.)

The platform takes care of all the workflow automation behind the scenes, giving candidates their own dashboard of results, letting election race editors create the questions and answers, tracking the usage, showing which issues are hottest, and more. The platform largely runs itself once the data is entered. The matching algorithm is simply a distance score, weighted by how much the voter says they care about each issue.

It’s built as a responsive Angular web application, and works on mobile phones as well as desktops. It’s fast and free.

Alignvote Now Displaying Sentiment

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve added a few enhancements to Alignvote.

Summary of Sentiment

How are end-users answering the survey? Now you can see a summary.

From the Voters Guide homepage, see the “Voter Sentiment” section. This shows you a rolled-up summary of how people are answering the quiz. As clearly described at the top of the page, this is NOT a scientific poll, nor is it represented as such. There are numerous reasons why this cumulative score might not reflect the reality in the race itself, including but not limited to duplicate quiz entries, selection bias of those taking the quiz, ineligible voters filling it out and more. But I thought some people might be interested in seeing what the cumulative inputs are.

All stances are shown, listed in descending order of stances taken, as in the partial screenshot below. Where the percentages don’t add up to 100%, the remainder is the percentage of respondents who chose not to answer that question. (Note that Alignvote doesn’t require that you answer all questions.)

As of 10/28/2019, here’s a snapshot for the results in the different Seattle City Council races:

D1-summary-10-28-2019

D2-summary-10-28-2019

D3-summary-10-28-2019

D4-summary-10-28-2019

D5-summary-10-28.2019

D6-summary-10-28-2019

D7-summary-10-28-2019

Live View

On the homepage, you’ll see a Live View snapshot of the most recent top-ranking as well as people entering the survey.

New: Discussion Board for Alignvote

I’ve added a Discussion Board for Alignvote. This will make it easier to share videos, media and links to articles about the issues in the Seattle City election. I’ve added the latest debate videos to the appropriate City Council District topic areas.

The one rule: Be Nice, Be Respectful. Visit the discussion board here.

New: Funds Raised, All Seven Districts

Alignvote now provides a single rollup page showing funds raised, district-by-district, for the Seattle City Council race. Data is as reported to, and by, the Seattle Election Commission.

Example, first four districts as of July 18 2019

You can find the link to the rollup page on the home page of alignvote.com.

Alignvote: Now with Campaign Financial Data

Alignvote now displays the most recently available Campaign Financial Data for each campaign, as reported by the Seattle Election Commission. Campaign financial data is displayed for all campaigns, and includes Expenditures, Cash on Hand and Balance, as well as a summary of Contributions to Date. Alignvote checks for updates daily.

A link is provided for voters to easily visit the Seattle Election Commission for more detail.

Example of how Campaign Financial Data is displayed

Alignvote is also now displaying Candidate Video statements.

New: Candidate Videos!

Alignvote now displays Candidate Videos in your ranking results, as provided by The Seattle Channel. These short video statements help you get to know each candidate a bit better.

Example of Video Display

Videos are only shown for Participating Candidates. “Participating Candidates” simply means that they took the time to answer the Alignvote Survey via their private dashboard. Alignvote doesn’t charge candidates or voters any fee.

Participating candidates get several free benefits, including:

  • Improved Profile Display for voters
  • Add elaborations on any or all issues
  • Add Endorsements, Candidate Statement, Funds Raised
  • Candidate Video Statement if available
  • See how you’re ranking in Alignvote
  • See what the top issues are in your race
  • See overall Alignvote usage

Now Shuffling Ties

As mentioned in the announcement post a few weeks ago, one work item we hadn’t implemented was shuffling candidate display order in the case of ties. The fact that the scores were tied has always been shown, but the sequence in which they were displayed was not shuffled.

Alignvote is now shuffling candidate display order at score calculation time in the case of pure ties. In addition, I’ve gone back through the logs and run a process to shuffle ties.

So participating candidates may notice a change in their placement-rating counts, as those who benefited from predictably sorting first (simply via a database artifact) will now have those equitably spread.

KUOW 94.9FM Interview

I joined Ross Reynolds on Monday for a 15-minute interview on Alignvote. We discussed its origins, how it works, and what I’m trying to accomplish with the project.

You can find it here on this page, about halfway down.

New: See Alignment Detail

When you’ve completed the interview on Alignvote, you’ll get a result list of candidates in the race, sorted by how much they agree with you.

You can now click the “Show Detail” button, and it will show you, issue by issue, whether the candidate is in alignment with you (thumbs-up) or not aligned with you (thumbs down):

Example — for each candidate, you’ll see where you agree and disagree

We hope this new level of transparency helps voters see more clearly why some candidates rank higher than others.

Note that your weighting influences the “cost” of a “misalignment”. That is, by default, everything is neutral (50 points.) If an issue is unimportant to you, drag the weighting slider to 0 and a “miss” or a “match” won’t influence the alignment score. If the issue is more important than average to you, drag the slider to the right.

With the new “share your session” permalink feature released yesterday, you can share these links on social media and others will be able to see the detail of where each candidate stands on the issues in the survey.