Sunday, November 2, 2014

Does Voting Matter? Interactive Visualizations To Learn About The Midterm Elections

Source: Vote Easy from Project Vote Smart
We've long admired the election resources from Project Vote Smart, but some new interactive tools are taking the 2014 midterms to mind-boggling levels. The non-partisan consortium has designed two dynamic interfaces that explore issues and candidates across the country. Students of any level will be mesmerized by the vivid graphics as they accumulate an understanding about individual politicians and their votes.

Source: Political Galaxy from Project Vote Smart
The Vote Easy site uses kid-friendly animations that allow users to choose a state and zip code to hone in on candidates in their neighborhoods. The politicians are rated on "courage" depending on whether or not they agreed to answer Vote Smart's questionnaire about key issues. Students can select areas of interest, such as "Education," "Energy," or "Environment," to align their personal viewpoints with the candidates who agree with them. Each contestant's face hops backward or forward in proportional "fit" as students indicate how important a topic is to them. This clever interaction reinforces the notion that voting is relative, since citizens care about issues in varying degrees.

Source: Share America (click for full graphic)
The Political Galaxy site drills down on every state and national figure across a spinning universe of politicians. By inputting either a name or zip code, students can navigate an impressive array of facts about each official, including votes, speeches, positions, funding, and ratings across a firmament of topics. The Political Galaxy page, by the way, works fine on mobile platforms, while Vote Easy's Flash encoding doesn't work on iOS devices.

The problem in getting students excited about non-presidential elections is the same obstacle keeping actual voters away from the polls: they need a reason to care. Most Americans do not internalize the critical importance of Congressional and local contests. To address this predicament, several high-quality infographics highlight the significance of this year's fights. The "All About The 2014 Midterm Elections" graphic from Share America offers a clean layout of compelling facts to tutor students and citizens in what's at stake this November.

Source: Bloomberg Politics
Bloomberg Politics presents a simple but effective interactive infographic that demonstrates how "A Really Small Slice Of Americans Get To Decide Who Will Rule The Senate." In this relational map, the turquoise states shift in size and location as they pinpoint a handful of voters who will determine the balance of Congressional power.

Two other infographics try to inspire younger voters from opposite directions. The "Why Young People Don't Vote" image from emphasizes the impediments keeping twenty-somethings away from the polls.

On the other hand, the "Vote With Confidence" placard from Bing's Voter Guide attempts to assuage the stress that young citizens feel over their lack of political understanding.

Source: Bing Voter Guide
Other online resources that help teachers and students appreciate the pivotal role that off-year elections play include:
Glenn Wiebe from History Tech, one of our favorite educational blogs, also introduced us to the Voting Information Project, which provides "cutting-edge technology tools that give voters access to the customized information they need to cast a ballot on or before Election Day." One of these tools is an embeddable widget that helps voters unearth essential details, such as polling locations and ballot requirements.

For other lesson ideas about elections and government, we recommend:


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