The local elections are coming up in May, we’ve been thinking a lot about how to cover them, and we have a plan. And we need a little help from you.
We cover Dublin City Council day in and day out, and there are basically two sides to it: the council officials and staff; and the 63 elected local councillors, who serve for five-year terms.
All 63 seats on the council are going to be up for grabs in a few months. (If you live in the area, and you are over 18, you are probably eligible to vote in this election, whether you are an Irish citizen or not.)
We want to cover this process in a way that is: a) useful and meaningful for you; and b) possible with our very limited resources. So here’s our plan.
NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen has written about how to cover elections, and some of what he’s said really resonated with us.
“A very weird thing about horse race or ‘game’ coverage is that it doesn’t answer to any identifiable need of the voter,” Rosen has written. “Should I vote for the candidate with the best strategy for capturing my vote? Do I walk into the voting booth clutching a list of who’s ahead in the polls?”
Rather than trying to predict which candidate or party is going to win an election, and get behind the scenes on their internal debates and strategies for getting votes, campaign coverage should instead focus on getting candidates to talk about the issues voters want them to address.
Then voters can enter the voting booth clutching a list of candidates whose views they agree with on how to address issues they care about. So we plan to do this, in two steps, first working to understand what issues you care about, and then getting candidates to address them.
We are now in the midst of Step 1, building a “citizens’ agenda” of six or eight issues voters care about, which we can then get candidates to respond address. So here is the question:
“What do you want the candidates in the upcoming local elections to be discussing as they compete for votes?”
We’ve asked this question before, and we’re going to ask again later: we want to reach as many people as we can, and get as many responses as possible.
Once we feel we’ve finished building the citizens’ agenda, we’ll do our best to approach every candidate across the city running for a seat on Dublin City Council.
But instead of asking them what their platform is, or what their party’s platform is, or what their election posters will look like, we’re going to ask them how they plan to address the issues on the citizens’ agenda we’ve built.
Then we’ll publish their answers on our site, so you can search the site to find the candidates running in your electoral area, and read what they have to say about issues you care about. You’ll also be able to visit CouncilTracker.ie, and check how each of these councillors has voted in roll-call votes on a variety of issues on recent years.
Meanwhile, our journalists will use this citizens’ agenda, and candidates’ answers, to help them decide what stories to write in the run-up to the election. They’ll talk to some candidates in these stories, but won’t, of course, have a chance to speak with each one individually.
We hope this combination of the candidates’ responses to the issues on the citizens’ agenda, the candidates’ voting records on CouncilTracker.ie, and our journalists’ articles will help you make an informed choice on 24 May.