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Transforming the Way New Yorkers Interact with Political Candidates
The NYC Votes project sought to lower the barriers to meaningful participation by making the political process as accessible and convenient as any eCommerce application.
Pivotal Labs, along with Method and AppOrchard, helped the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) and its Voter Assistance Committee (VAAC) create a mobile website that streamlines the political process for voters and candidates alike.
Through its public matching funds program, the CFB seeks to counteract the role of big money in the political process by encouraging candidates for City office to raise small contributions from everyday New Yorkers. VAAC’s mission is to increase civic engagement in all local elections, by encouraging more New Yorkers to register and vote.
The first release of the app, the Candidate Contribution Tool, empowered candidates and campaign staffers to collect and process credit card contributions on their mobile phones. Instead of handling checks and manually entering data into the CFB’s reporting software, candidates can use the app to export the necessary data and upload it directly into the CFB’s system, simplifying compliance with legal requirements. Dozens of candidates are now using the tool.
In its second release, the Voter Tool provided voters the ability to see who’s on the ballot in their district, view the candidates’ official Voter Guide profiles and leverage social networks to let them interact with candidates. It also allows voters to make contributions to the candidates of their choice and directs them to their polling place on Election Day.
A critical requirement of NYC Votes was enabling credit card contributions; we used Stripe Connect, a third-party payment processing product. Stripe collaborated with us to make the changes we requested, improve the testing process and ensure the security of the transaction.
We went with mobile web instead of a native app for two reasons: time to market and broad application. The tool had to be as democratic as possible, without giving one platform the advantage over another.
The needs of NYC Votes made it especially well suited to our development practices. Our agile process let us adapt pre-designed work and move forward with the format brought to us by the CFB. We were able to build a nonpartisan app that interfaces with municipal government legacy systems that were never intended for that purpose, demonstrating how well our approach to legacy systems in the private sector can translate to the public sphere.