This project proposes that redesigning the way people encounter and engage with information about election candidates will lead to an increase in political participation. Participation cannot be limited to filling out a voting paper; citizens need to be invited to engage in dialogues, to shape discussions and set agendas. Ask Away demonstrates how an online platform can facilitate this. Ask Away is a web application where users can ask questions, vote for the ones they want answered, comment on and share questions. Designated users (in this case, political candidates) can login and answer questions. Each question displays a range of answers. To make it relate to young people better, the user interface takes its reference from social media models that are familiar to the youth population, such as Twitter and Facebook. A character limit keeps both questions and answers concise, and by displaying answers from multiple political parties, users can easily compare the party positions. This concept was prototyped in the lead up to the 2014 General Election, and used by 22,000 New Zealanders. 16,000 votes were cast across 1098 questions, and 1166 answers came from sixty different candidates from New Zealand’s nine largest political parties. Ask Away created a democratic public space for civic discussion where young people’s voices were heard, and remains a piece of open source infrastructure for anyone, and anywhere.

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