Meet Your Mayor
Country/area: United States
Organisation: THE CITY
Organisation size: Small
Publication date: 21/03/2021
Credit: Ann Choi, Will Welch, Mõnica Cordero, Alyssa Katz
Ann Choi: Ann, who was THE CITY’s senior data reporter, is now senior investigative data reporter at Bloomberg News. She previously worked at Newday, where she earned a Polk Award.
Will Welch: Will,an interactives/graphics producer for THE CITY, previously worked for Newsday, where he earned a Polk Award.
Mõnica Cordero: Monica is a freelance journalist who has worked on projects for Bloomberg News, Univision, Forbes and more.
Alyssa Katz: Alyssa is a deputy editor with THE CITY, a former member of the NY Daily News editorial board and the former editor of City Limits.
The 2021 citywide primary in New York arrived with a record number of candidates, a new ranked-choice voting system — and the biggest stakes of any local election in at least a generation.
With more than a dozen hopefuls seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor, THE CITY was determined to cut through the noise of endless Zoom candidate forums and help voters in a city beset by dismally low voter turnout in recent years. So we created “Meet Your Mayor,” a quiz-driven interactive that helps voters find the candidates whose stances most closely match theirs’.
Based on answers to questions posed to both users and the candidates, users were instantly able to see how the candidates stacked up, issue by issue. The interactive also provides excerpts from candidates’ public comments on various issues, offering additional context.
The project drew more than 500,000 views, with average use in the days before the June primary reaching about 13 minutes.
Nearly 1 million New Yorkers cast ballots in the primary, compared to about 700,000 in 2013, the last time the city had comparable turnover in municipal government.
The project attracted coverage in other media, as well as via social media: Some voters tweeted that Meet Your Mayor helped them choose and rank candidates using the new, unfamiliar voting system.
The project also attracted attention beyond New York: At the request of #VoteATL, a collective of community organizations in Atlanta, we shared our code to help create a version of Meet Your Mayor for The Big Peach’s general election (https://app.voteatl.org/meet-your-mayor/).
The interactive bubble graphics were built with D3. We used Google and Facebook’s authentication libraries to allow users to customize the page with their social media profile image. Answers were saved to localStorage to retain progress between visits and pre-populate the roundup quiz.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The interrelated tasks of coming up with clear, digestible and fair multiple choice questions on often complex issues — and getting candidates to answer them — proved challenging and labor intensive. After carefully crafting questions, we sent them to the candidates — and followed up and followed up until we got answers. In the few cases where candidates declined to answer some or all questions, we scoured the public record — everything from candidates’ websites to media appearances to comments made during dozens of Zoom forums — to best determine answers. The work that went into picking issues, writing and refining questions to make them both useful and reader friendly cannot be underestimated. We believe we met our goal in creating a civic-engagement tool that never felt like homework, and proved, to some, even fun.
What can others learn from this project?
Meet Your Mayor is an engagement tool built on personalization. We were careful to space out the rollout of quizzes over about 10 weeks to both keep users excited about the next installment without overloading them. We also offered a pre-primary day payoff: a final compilation that could be used to see how the candidates stacked up to the user’s views on a wide range of issues. We never wavered from our determination to deliver information and insight through interactivity, keeping the user’s bar to entry low while keeping the journalistic standards and quality high.