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Online tool makes voting in Sheffield easier

Who Is My Councillor wants to give people the power to make informed voting decisions ahead of the local elections on 6 May.

Who is my councillor website screenshot

Who Is My Councillor (WIMC) is a new online resource that aims to give the public easy and accessible information on candidates standing in the local elections in Sheffield.Information on the candidates’ positions, policies, parties and priorities are all pulled, so that voters are able to make real comparisons and informed decisions.

This information is based on questions put to the candidates by the founders of WIMC, developed to hone in on candidates’ key ideas and positions on topics relevant to both local and national scales. In future, it's hoped that these questions will be developed by the Sheffield public. With the ongoing pandemic meaning there are no physical hustings and canvassing is limited, there is a significant gap in the contact between candidates and voters.

Speaking to Now Then, Eleanor Holmshaw, one of the founders of WIMC, explains why this new site is so important. "The traditional campaign model for most local parties hasn’t quite caught up with the online trends, but online tools can be used to reach thousands, including many who due to ability, financial or cultural background would not be going to events or searching for information.”

She adds that WIMC wanted to create a way that can overcome these kinds of barriers, so that this gap between candidates and voters is reduced. The group behind the project also want the site to encourage more people to vote, especially in light of the typical low voter turnout for local elections.

Nigel Slack, another of the WIMC founders, says that “increasing people’s exercise of their right to vote is essential to improving trust in our democratic process and in the legitimacy of our elected representatives.” Slack explains that by presenting regular and open information, all in one place, people may find choosing which candidates to vote for easier, and the confidence in their vote is likely to increase. “There’s nothing worse for turnout than thinking your vote is pointless.”

As well as increasing voter turnout, Holmshaw adds that they want to improve engagement between citizens and Council, with many people feeling powerless and disengaged from local politics.

The hope for the future with WIMC is to “ensure this approach to candidate information is available at every local election in Sheffield going forward, and potentially even extending the project to regional and national elections for our area,” says Slack.

Holmshaw adds that she’d like “the culture of communicating with voters to become the norm for Sheffield.”

“I’d like to see the council and parties embrace the digital space as part of this, for its wide-reaching, accessible and equitable qualities.”

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