About Alignvote
About Alignvote™
Hi. I'm Steve, a Seattle voter. I started Alignvote in 2019 as a free civic project after attending several candidate forums across the city. I noticed a few things. First, there's a contingent of folks who do follow city politics very closely, but by and large, many of my fellow Seattleites do not. Local politics can be complex but extremely consequential. Many do not have the time to understand what some of the big issues are in the election cycle, and too many voters guide statements are written like horoscopes: it's easy to read into them what you'd like.
I'm a Seattle moderate who has some technology skills and a bit of time on my hands. So this side-project is all about making a bit easier for you to quickly identify those candidates who are closest to your own views on issues. You can, in effect, build your own endorsement guide. You can get involved. Or at the very least, you'll be able to more quickly see where you and the various candidates agree and disagree, which might lead to further thinking and discussion. I am very happy if you use this platform to quickly identify any candidate, very much including the ones I might not align with.
Alignvote™ is a free and easy way for you to find those candidates most closely aligned with you on a few policy questions. But policy stances and plans aren't the only reasons you should consider voting for someone. Other factors which may matter to you include experience, life's story, plans beyond the scope of these questions, leadership style, identity group, their demonstrated successes or failures elsewhere, and much more.
Make no mistake, there is a human behind Alignvote, and, just as most writers (even political writers) do, I have opinions on candidates, including those running for office in the Seattle 2021 elections. I've written for Post Alley, a Seattle journal. I write on my own blog. But as for Alignvote, I make every effort to ensure that this platform represents candidate positions correctly and clearly, using questions already asked and answered on the record from various sources. By nature of the platform, all questions are closed-end questions -- i.e., multiple-choice. But Alignvote also offers offers candidates unfiltered access to voters via optional elaborations, to get their message out when they are pondering their choices. No response in Alignvote provided by a campaign is filtered or withheld from voters in any way.
Alignvote uses a simple distance score to calculate rankings, weighted by the importance YOU set for each question. There's a very easy integrity-check we encourage all campaigns that have completed the Alignvote survey to do: simply go to another browser, and pretend you're a voter that agrees with you. You will rank #1 -- or tied for #1, if another candidate agrees precisely with you. Further, every single voter-candidate ranking is logged with a unique URL. You can share any URL with that any session that you think returns results not in line with where candidates actually stand (and you should reach out to us immediately if you spot any such discrepancy.)
  • Greater voter participation.
  • Greater clarity of candidate stances.
  • Greater voter connection with like-minded candidates, regardless of candidate.
  • More involvement by people of all viewpoints in local elections.
  • Easier way for voters to figure out where candidates stand, at a high level, on key and often complex issues so that they may dig further with the candidates closest to their own views.
  • Greater contemplation of the idea that key issues often involve tradeoffs with valid arguments on each side
  • Greater incorporation of actual policy stances when voting, not just matters of personal story, identity and other important areas which get ample attention.
Alignvote commits to offering candidates an equitable, accurate platform. We are most interested in clarity, and want voters to know where canididates stand. We believe that good people can and often do disagree on controversial policy stances. Our commitment includes, but is not limited to:
  • The similarity-score calculation is precisely the same for all candidates.
  • The only weighting which is applied in the similarity score is the one the voter sets around the importance level of the issue to them.
  • There is no candidate weighting or skew applied to the similarity score or ranking.
  • No campaign has paid or otherwise compensated Alignvote, the founder, or any related entity.
  • No campaign has influenced the selection of questions.
  • All candidates have full and equal access to their own questionnaire dashboard, where they can confirm their stances, and elaborate as they wish. Due to the way this platform uses caching to deliver lightning-fast pageloads for voters, their changes won't be immediately reflected on the site, but can be accelerated if they campaign emails us.
  • Best efforts are made to notify all candidates of new features or changes at or near the same time, certainly the same day.
  • No filtering-out or in is performed of what any candidate says.
  • There is no fee charged to any candidate to participate. There is no fee to voters to use it. There is no revenue associated with this project at this time, though in the future, we could imagine a "SurveyMonkey" type revenue stream.
  • No personal preference of anyone involved on the Alignvote team will influence the similarity ranking calculation.
  • Alignvote makes no changes to stances once the candidate submits their stances.
  • No editing is done to what any candidate writes.
  • All candidates have been asked to optionally submit a good and fair question for consideration in a future round.
  • All candidates can and should confirm that they rank #1 for any voter test where they pretend to be a voter who has precisely the same stances, on any browser, anywhere, any time.
  • As always, we invite candidates and campaigns to test any and all of the above, and provide any reproducable results or videos if they spot favoritism or skew in the results. Any concern about the questions themselves should be focused on what the next round of questions should include, or questions that are on the minds of voters, with a complete and reasonable set of options.All candidates have been invited to officially submit one consideration in the next round.
Research and Alignvote Match-Rankings
Just as a reputable news outlet might, best-efforts are made to accurately capture candidate's stance on each question.
By design, Alignvote questions are multiple-choice, and each candidate's stance is slotted according to the closest articulation of that stance. To do this, we research candidates' direct public statements and media engagements, including interviews, forums, tweets, videos and their own campaign websites. We also reach out to directly to each candidate with the exact same survey voters are offered.
Where we cannot reasonably infer candidate positions from their own public statements or published positions, those answers are left blank, which by nature of the algorithm may dramatically reduce their match likelihood. (As of Alignvote 2.0, staff will infer stances from on-the-record statements if campaigns do not confirm it, and evidence is supplied as to their stance in the rankings.)
Alignvote researches public stances as any media outlet might: their public statements made in interviews, forums, Tweets from their campaigns, websites and more. We also email every candidate with the exact wording of the survey and give them a chance to respond.
We contact every candidate in the race -- if you're a candidate and have not completed an Alignvote survey, check your email from alignvote[at]gmail.com, or jot us a note and we'll be happy to resend one to you. We want to do everything to ensure your views are accurately represented.
On Bias and Controversy
Like all voters, the creator of Alignvote has political opinions, has expressed them on social media and his blog. His own views may not match your own. So too of any TV personality or blogger covering politics. He considers himself a centrist who has supported candidates with varying ideologies over the years. But he also realizes that the term "centrist" is a subjective label. He values great public schools, transit options, help for those who need it, good and accountable government, green parks, transparent metrics for the public which funds services, more affordable housing inventory, better solutions for those experiencing mental health or substance use crises in their lives and improved health and environmental outcomes for all. He doesn't have strongly held opinions on all issues. On others, he does.
Alignvote has generated some controversy. We think that's because (a) some political writers/tweeters with relatively large followings really don't like when policy tradeoff questions are framed in any other terms other than the favorable ones they prefer, and (b) many candidates like to "tack toward the center" and therefore want the freedom to be all things to all voters for a general election. And they don't like being forced into multiple-choice tradeoffs. But leadership is often about tradeoffs. Alignvote thinks voters deserve clarity.
The selection of any set of questions in any poll or survey can absolutely result in bias. This happens all the time in endorsement questionnaires, forums, press stories and more. Controversial issues can be framed in a number of ways. Alignvote simply shows the level of match between you and the candidates on the questions. There are many opportunities to hear open-ended answers to questions (interviews, forums, meet-and-greets and more.) By design, to help voters quickly identify closest-match-to-them, Alignvote relies upon closed-ended questions, where both you and the candidate must commit to one of the answers. We offer candidates an option to elaborate on why they chose the option they did.
Yep, there are a few critics
No question, not everyone loves this tool! Candidates who like to stay at 20,000+ feet and be "yes to all," particularly in the tack-toward-the-center that most general election seasons bring -- don't love it. Activists and activist-journalists who have a particular, rigid framing on issues which they feel is the only correct one which must be used don't love it, and often criticize this approach. In critiquing Alignvote, they primarily focus on the wording or selection of questions. Others say that those who have opinions on candidates cannot possibly be expected to build a tool free from bias. To that I'd agree, but also counter: have you ever read a story about politics? Every journalist has political bias. With Alignvote, we are simply helping you identify the level of match between you and each candidate -- candidates are free to elaborate on the question and indicate that they disagree with the framing. Many of these questions come directly from those already put before candidates by other entities. Some would prefer that those answers not be widely known, nor their very real tradeoffs actually contemplated. Questions are generally included if they tend to differentiate candidates on matters of interest to a large percentage of area voters.
Look. Alignvote is just one of many voters guides and tools out there, and we challenge anyone to find a voters guide, or endorsement process, or even article about politics which is entirely free from bias. The question is -- which set of approaches can best help voters quickly understand where candidates actually stand?
Question Selection
We start with the premise that no voter really wants to answer more than about 15 questions to get useful results. Beyond that point, it's probably more useful to just sit through all the videos and read all the campaign docs. So, ideal questions include ones where they are about policy questions that matter to at least thousands of Seattleites, ideally ones where candidates have differing takes on them. In an ideal world, it'd be great if Alignvote became popular enough to be able to pose question directly to candidates, from you, and have them answer it. Perhaps there might even be room for video snippets, like some kind of ongoing town hall. It would be very interesting to have questions, say, upvoted or downvoted, and then, once they reached some threshold, sent off to the candidates in the race for commentary.
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We'd love to see more people getting up to speed on local elections, and who stands where. If you're in favor of tools like this, we could use your help on social media. Use the buttons below to share the site with friends on Twitter, Facebook, Nextdoor, Reddit, LinkedIn and more. Text it and email it to voting friends. Include the hashtag #alignvote.