Informed voters are key to democracy. With the election mere weeks away, many voters want to know how different parties would handle important issues if given their vote. However, relying solely on party statements and political debates can leave questions unanswered and policies unclear. A clever innovation released as part of Massey University’s Design and Democracy Project has made parties’ thoughts much more accessible. Ask Away is a Q & A website, where the most popular questions of each day are answered by party members. It is an excellent way to get direct answers from politicians and to see clearly how party policies compare. The ease with which one can access party policies on such a wide range of topics is what makes this site so effective and the Q & A system is democratic in itself, in that users vote for questions and the most popular ones receive responses. The questions are by no means answered solely by backbenchers either, with a recent query on education policy being fielded by the Minister of Education herself. Thus the website provides a great platform for voters and politicians to interact.
The site was developed by Meg Howie (as part of her Master of Design thesis) and Jon Lemmon (a co-founder of communication software Loomio) in conjunction with the developer collective Code for New Zealand. For more information on the creators and how the website works, see the website’s ‘About‘ page. And if there is a political question that you would like answered or you are just curious, head along to the discussion board at www.nzelection.askaway.org.nz.