Leeds local elections 2018

With the 2018 Leeds local elections only a few weeks away (Thursday 3rd May) you might be wondering who your Council candidates are? Let us help you with that with an interactive visualisation of the candidates standing in Leeds. If you haven't already registered to vote, you should do that by Tuesday 17th April (this Tuesday).

As you'll see from my previous blog posts we seem to have a bit of an obsession with hex-based maps at ODI Leeds. From elections, to petition data, to showing areas of Leeds with the most capacity for improvement in energy efficiency, to Dan and Tom's Ofcom broadband speed map of the UK. The local elections are another appropriate use of a hex-map.

The data for the visualisation comes from Democracy Club - a coordination of thousands of volunteers to crowd-source data about democracy e.g. lists of elections, candidates and polling locations. Democracy Club is necessary because we have no national body responsible for collating information about candidates in elections. Each council does its own thing. Democracy Club's data allows tools such as Who can I vote for? and Where do I vote?. It is also open so anyone can download the data for their own mashups.

I created the candidate map for Leeds fairly quickly. At the moment the main view is a heat map showing the number of candidates listed in each ward. This has slowly filled in over the past couple of weeks and I think it is close to complete now. I was also able to add an option to colour the map by the (if known) gender split for each ward and an idea of the size of the new electorates. But, thanks to Democracy Club data, I was able to add something else...

Political biscuits

When adding each candidate's data to Democracy Club, the final field is "Favourite biscuit". It is such an unusual question that it is usually left blank. That is unless the candidate has added the information themselves. I noticed that three of the candidates - two from The Yorkshire Party and one from the Greens - had added their biscuit preferences. After mentioning it on Twitter I was tickled to get an "official" Yorkshire Party position on biscuits. For the record, the Yorkshire Party HQ prefer Fox's Chunky Triple Choc Cookies - possibly because they are made in Batley. Using the Twitter handles listed in the Democracy Club data, and in the interests of political neutrality, I decided I'd find out what the other candidates' choices were. I've had replies from the Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats, a Conservative, and a For Britain candidate. The result is a live graph of candidates' biscuit preferences. So far it is quite diverse although Custard Creams have now taken the lead. Most candidates are yet to provide answers to this burning question.

Sharing the hexes

We could have just created these hex maps and left it at that but we want others to be able to make hex maps too. As well as defining a format for sharing hex-based maps we've created a Javascript library for interactive, hex-based, maps. Until now our hex maps have been created with slightly different codes so the plan is to have one standard library to drive our future visualisations. It is on Github so bug fixes are welcome.