Hack the Vote: Denton City Council Elections

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UPDATE: A hackathon to tackle some of this has now been scheduled for this Thursday night, Feb 7 at 8:30pm at my house (322 Texas Street). Come if you want in on the fun…

The average voter age in Denton City Council elections is 63. Only 4-7% of registered voters takes the time to vote in local city elections. I’ve discussed these trends in local voting behavior elsewhere and there are certainly many theories as to why this is the case.  But one thing is clear: we can be doing a better job helping interested people engage in their local democracy.

That is why, as I head into my second election season running for the District 1 seat on the Denton City Council, I’m calling on civic-minded innovators out there to join me in “hacking the vote” to increase voter participation in this May’s Denton City Council elections. If you can code, design, do web apps or mobile apps, have GIS skills, excel in data visualization, or something equally cool, why not become an instant local rock star by helping to make democracy better for your community.

Below are two problems that are in need of solutions:

Every two years, the city council elections are for the four district-specific seats, meaning you are only able to vote for the city council race corresponding to the district you reside in (or are registered in).  This is the first step to getting someone interested in this year’s race – they need to know what district race to pay attention to.  But how?

As it stands right now, you can navigate the City of Denton website and try and find the city council district maps. You’d have to know to go to the “Government” link at the top, then select “City Council” and eventually find a link to this page of PDF maps of city districts.  After several attempts at increasing the size of the map to see the street names, you will eventually be able to find where you live. But try doing this from your smart phone – you’ll probably give up.

If and when you do discover your district from this method, a problem still exists – just because you happen to currently reside within a particular council district, that doesn’t guarantee you are actually registered to vote in that district. During my last campaign, I found this problematic particularly for poorer and younger populations (under the age of 40) due to the increased likelihood of moving since they were last registered to vote in the city. What makes matters worse, because you must change your registration 30 days before an election, most people don’t discover this problem until it is too late to do anything about it.

In addition to finding out which district you happen to live in, a potentially interested voter also has to double check to make sure that is the same district listed on their voter registration. Keep in mind that the city went through a redistricting process in 2011 (since the last city district-specific council race). And the new voter registration cards issued by the county ahead of last year’s primary election season were not yet updated with the new city council district alignments.  You now have to go to the Denton County voter registration database website to check on your registration status to cross-check your city district to make sure your registration corresponds with your current address – there you can find the city council district you are currently registered in near the bottom of the right-hand column.  If you’ve moved within Denton since you first registered to vote here, chances are the district you live in is not the district you are registered in.

HOW CAN WE MAKE THIS EASIER? A few hacking hints: the county has voter information readily available through an open records request. You can get access to all the registered voters, their addresses, their districts, their voting history, etc. This would be helpful data to begin the process.

I don’t know of a single online resource that consolidates this info into one place – just a simple district by district listing of the candidates and a link to their respective web and social media sites. The local newspaper covers the races, but typically in a way that makes pulling all the info together difficult (the stories run on separate days and their site hasn’t in the past kept a static site, accessible through their front page during election season, where such info is available. The city doesn’t put this info on their site either.

Want to help find a solution to one of these problems? Let’s go. I’m on Twitter @KevinRoden or you can email me at kevin@rodenfordenton.com.


- voter files


- voter district GIS data set

  1. Scott Campbell says:

    I wrote half a blog RE: voting earlier today. I’ll be doing several between now and May 11.

  2. rhonda Love says:

    great idea! I am one of the older voters and I really want the younger folks to get engaged in making Denton even more dynamic! Good luck!!

  3. amber says:

    kevin, the league of women voters puts out a voter guide every election, even for city council ones. i’ve been trying to get them to have a greater web presence, but we DO have a facebook page and i try to upload relevant things there. we also have a web page (which looks pretty cluttered, i admit) and you can often find info about candidates and issues there as well. vote411.org is another resource. that’s assuming, of course, that candidates fill out their LWV questionnaires. but that might be one resource you could direct people to when trying to find information on their candidates. http://www.lwvdenton.org/ and also https://www.facebook.com/pages/League-of-Women-Voters-Denton-Texas

  4. Carl S says:

    My GIS skillz are going on fast approaching 20 years old, and rusty. The tools of today are so much better. I’m hoping those young kids can hack these problems with ease.

  5. andy boyd says:

    Meant to attend but I totally blanked on this after the kids got home. I’m a local developer and Denton native who just started a dev shop – http://engagerinteractive.com – to specialize in creative solutions using open source software (read: internet awesomeness on a budget). Short on time, but interested in helping :)

  6. This is not an edorsement of any particular candidate. I cleaned up the home page today and placed links to the Denton County VRdb search and City of Denton City Council District maps on the home page for the duration of the election.

  7. Brittany says:

    I’m not sure if you’ll still check this website or not but I’m looking for information on registered voters in Denton City and the party breakdown/past voting records. Would you be able to point me in the right direction to finding that? All of the Denton County voter info links seems to mysteriously be unavailable/broken. Thanks.

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