In your last local election, how well did you know the candidates? If you’re like many Americans, the answer is likely, “not very well.” In fact, citizens often skip voting on races like school board and city council because they don't know who any of the candidates are and it’s time consuming to figure it out. That’s where undebate steps in.
“I want to give every candidate an equal, unbiased opportunity to reach their community,” said David Fridley, the man behind undebate. He launched the first version of the project on November 5, 2019, for the San Francisco District Attorney's race. Three candidates were able to connect with voters for free exactly at the moment many were making their decisions. The Q&A-style video debate allowed every candidate equal chance to tell voters who they were, what they stood for and why the community should vote for them.
This undebate reached a few hundred people, but the dream is much larger than that: It’s to provide this service to every candidate in every race in every district across the entire country. Fridley believes we all must help democracy work better at scale. “If you have 10,000 people go to city hall for dialogue and deliberation, it doesn’t work,” he said. But this might.
Fridley traveled from California to Hack to Give Thanks to get new perspective from designers and developers. One of the biggest issues he pointed to was the user interface--which “sucks,” as he put it, and causes voters to disregard the whole project.
First up? Deciding how to organize the information in a way that voters’ questions are answered without being overwhelming. The team started by sketching out a variety of options for breaking up the candidate answers into searchable, skippable video segments--so voters could understand each candidate’s stance on top-priority issues before learning more nuanced perspectives.
If you’d like to get involved to help better inform our country’s voter base, contact Fridley on DemocracyLab. He’s looking for marketers, UI designers and front-end and full-stack developers.