Kaohsiung Voters Decide Han’s Future

Country/area: Taiwan

Organisation: CommonWealth Magazine

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 5 Jun 2020

Credit: Rebecca Lin, Johann Tsai, Chen-Hua Chen, Andy Lin, Daniel Kao, Yu-Ting Huang, Yu-Hsin Lee

Project description:

On June 6th, 2020, voters in Kaohsiung went to the polls to determine the fate of Mayor Han Kuo-Yu, a deeply divisive politician who made a bid for Taiwan’s presidency six months earlier. The recall vote marked the first special municipality mayor to be successfully recalled in Taiwan’s history.

Impact reached:

This project served as a live vote results and analysis page for Mayor Han Kuo-Yu’s recall vote. As the vote was being reported, this project became a highly visited and shared website for people following the vote results. In the topmost section, Commonwealth Magazine published the two conditions for recall, the most important information to our readers. Following the vote results, we included a map breaking down the votes by district, and then further compared the results with Han’s electoral results from his previous elections.

Because Mayor Han achieved notoriety in his bid for the presidency six months earlier, Commonwealth Magazine realized that this vote would also be of interest to a more international audience. Thus, Commonwealth Magazine was also able to reach both a domestic and international audience by publishing in both Chinese and English.

In 2020 alone, Commonwealth Magazine ran four different live vote trackers, quickly establishing a name in Taiwanese media for reliable, quick, and clean elections results reporting online.

Techniques/technologies used:

This project was powered by a live data API provided by Taiwan’s Central Election Commission. Commonwealth Magazine built a live elections pipeline to connect the data to our readers, allowing readers to see results on their devices as soon as they were updated. Open source tools including D3 were used to create the maps and charts on top of our internal Svelte.js interactive graphics library which Commonwealth Magazine has developed for visual storytelling.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part of this project was planning the information and analysis would be most informative to readers as the vote was being tallied while being completely unsure of how citizens of Kaohsiung would vote and turn out. This challenge prompted us to work closely with our politics reporters in order to understand the small nuances and potential implications of each vote result. Ultimately, voters who turned out voted overwhelmingly in support of recalling Mayor Han, consequently rendering our district map completely yellow and thus not a very useful display of information.

What can others learn from this project?

One of the big lessons from this project is that live vote tracking requires not only technical and visualization skills, but also a strong collaboration with the political reporters within the newsroom. If the team responsible for creating the live vote results doesn’t collaborate closely with political reporters, it’s easy to create a page that displays the results but may not be as useful to the reader. Because elections usually represent some underlying political issues, it’s important that election reporting, including live results pages, consider these political issues and how they may affect turnout, geographical differences, etc.

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