Common Cause Hawaii Raises Awareness of Money in Politics

Dec. 8, 2014

With funding from Voqal Fund, Common Cause Hawaii created Civic*Celerator, a year-long collaboration aimed at developing user friendly applications (apps) leveraging the resource of open data made available by the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission.

The project, the first of its kind in the nation, engaged the creativity of a local community of programmers to create civic apps that provide relevant information about political candidates and the amounts and sources of their financial support to voters and prospective voters. Apps ranged from the creation of a searchable database of political contributors, allowing voters to learn about campaign spending before voting, to a map helping one find their polling location.

Through Civic*Celerator, 8 new apps were created. The most popular app was the “Power Ballot” feature on the “Precincts Map” app. Not surprisingly, voters researched candidates for Congressional seats and Governor most frequently. Candidates for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) were the next most researched. These at-large statewide races are conducted with minimal campaigning. The high interest in OHA candidates indicates the app filled a need, providing information where there was little.

This unprecedented community project, which marries technology with the issues of money in politics and transparency to better promote access to government, was designed with replication by other states in mind.