Out for the Count: bringing you fast local election results on 5 May

ODI Showcase project team Out for the Count are working to bring democratic transparency to the digital age – they will deliver the first open dataset of local election results as soon as possible after the votes are counted. Here’s how they plan to do it

It's time for greater transparency in local elections and more-informed choices for voters. CC BY 2.0, uploaded by [michaelswan](https://www.flickr.com/photos/mmmswan/23131244506/in/photolist-Bf2F7s-AFvjPM-AFvjav-AHPuzx-4Tg8U-ancEK7-7M2ALg-rnA6J-5zg7WX-2urNp-9HKsC5-9T7PZo-bCMJzv-6hdL8D-zHqerj-9ciiDw-dqV4VW-46uZse-bbEMW-o1VzCH-74taDB-mVoAoG-5zonmj-4aaSVb-dpw2Fy-7Urj9J-hstQkU-7j2uVj-drdjvY-aD2p5x-dPcqJ1-oVGMAo-hE5oza-dYb6DW-DVuES-4quuCS-6QqaC2-7nmr-drkNyV-d2ffqQ-t5oFV-nR6ZVV-t5oJp-4pF9Pw-nPCx9Z-eiXni3-izp5UL-nry5Jp-5pZg8F-t5oGn “michaelswan").

Tomorrow, on Thursday 5 May, people in 124 councils across the UK will be heading to the polls to elect the people who will look after the provision of services in their areas – their local councillors and mayors.

While just how many people will turn out to vote is still uncertain, it's hoped that the UK will improve upon holding the lowest rate of electoral participation by young people in the OECD, with more informed, engaged citizens who want to make a difference through the ballot box.

The lack of an accessible platform featuring elections, candidate and results information has made it hard for UK voters to understand who they are electing in local elections. The information that does exist – on results, in particular – has often been confined to PDF documents, hidden away on council websites. It has not always been clear which political party is in even control of which council.

Out for the Count is a new campaign calling for more open and accessible data on local elections across the UK. It is a project run in partnership between the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) and Democracy Club.

With funding and support from the ODI, Out for the Count is working to deliver the UK’s first election results tracker for the local government elections. This will crowdsource results live from counts taking place across the country as they come in, with the help of volunteer ‘Count Correspondents’.

Out for the Count’s vision is to help voters get a fast feedback loop, so if they turn out to the polls they can find out what happened to their vote. This will help to support the broader aim of ensuring greater transparency in elections, and more informed choices for voters. In support of open elections around the world, Out for the Count's results tracker is being designed so it can be used again for elections everywhere.

Many hands make democracy work

Over the past few weeks, Out for the Count has been crowdsourcing data to build a candidate database, listing information on all candidates ahead of the election.

This has meant identifying the locations of all the lists of candidates on every council website and asking volunteers to turn what is published in PDFs on council websites into open data. Much of this has been a case of copying and pasting information, with Democracy Club volunteers validating the data retrospectively. Our very own Jeni Tennison has been one of the most active volunteers in helping to build the candidate database.

To track the results on Thursday, Count Correspondents will enter results data into the database that Democracy Club use to manage candidates – itself an iteration of mySociety’s YourNextRepresentative platform – via candidates.democracyclub.org.uk. A live API will make all this data available to anyone who wants it.

Appending results data to the existing candidate database will enrich the open elections data that exists, and will allow for historical trends to reveal themselves over time.

Who will benefit from Out for the Count’s database and results tracker?

Better information about candidates and elections means more informed decision making and more accountable representatives in future. Building the first open dataset of local elections results is a big step forward in bringing democratic transparency to the digital age.

The data gathered by Out for the Count is already being used by different groups to help enrich understanding of the elections. Alongside Democracy Club’s database WhoICanVoteFor – which over 10,000 people have already used to date – the data is being used to power the LSE’s Democratic Dashboard, which aims to promote engagement in the electoral process by making election and constituency information more accessible.

Out for the Count's candidate database and results tracker will ultimately give voters access to the best possible information on who is running and winning in their areas, while ensuring the democratic process is as open as possible for councillors.

"We want to show the value of having timely open data on elections, candidates and results and to encourage local governments to provide this information in machine-readable and discoverable formats, as well as citizen-accessible, human-readable formats," says Joe Mitchell, Coordinator of Democracy Club CIC.

"We are working with the Cabinet Office, the LGA and others to ensure that we learn lessons from this year, which can be applied to future elections – avoiding the (unnecessary) hard work of copying and pasting elections data to make it accessible to citizens and journalists. Together, our goal is to have all councils publishing data openly and accessibly by the 2020 general and local elections."

How can I get involved?

There’s still time to sign up to be a Count Correspondent and report the results in your area. You’ll find all you need in this pack.

For more information on what's happening on Thursday, see Out for the Count’s guide to the local elections. Keep up to date with the latest developments with #OutForTheCount and #LE2016 on Twitter.

If you work for a council, take a look at LGiU’s top tips on communicating elections – from showing the overall results in an accessible ways, to creating maps and infographics, to knowing what photographs you can feature.

If you work for a media platform, use the results tracker to help you deliver up-to-date coverage.

The ODI Showcase supports projects that demonstrate how open data can be used to bring longstanding benefits to individuals, organisations and society. The ODI provides grant funding, mentoring and promotional support to maximise these impacts. Find out more here.

If you have ideas or experience in open data that you’d like to share, pitch us a blog or tweet us at @ODIHQ.