Stanford Magic Grant Team Earns City Recognition

The Magic Grant team Crowdsourced Democracy Team at Stanford was recognized on Oct. 15 by the City of Vallejo, Calif., for a digital voting system and their work on crowd sourced democracy.

The team – which includes the Widescope and Synapp projects – and which is lead by Professor Ashish Goel, received an official proclamation for the team’s work from the City of Vallejo.

Proclamations were presented to the team by Councilmembers Dew Costa and Miessner for the Cycle 2 vote, held September 27 through October 6, 2014.

The work is a continuation from the digital voting system implementation in the 49th Ward in Chicago earlier this year.

The City of Vallejo partnered with the Crowdsourced Democracy Team to provide a convenient and secure digital voting platform, as an alternative to traditional paper ballots. The digital platform was used at several satellite locations. Nearly a quarter of the 3,744 residents who voted in Vallejo cast their ballot using the digital platform. On Sept. 10, an electronic sample ballot was posted on the Participatory Budgeting website to acclimate voters with the digital interface and encourage electronic voting.

“Our mission is to scale up collaboration and decision making,” Professor Goel said.  “The Participatory Budgeting process in Vallejo is a glowing example of democracy at its best, and we feel privileged to help in a small way.”

Benefits of the digital platform include automatic tabulation of votes and automatic randomization of the order of projects for each voter. Voters also had the option of comparing projects based on their perception of the community benefit the project would provide.

“This was an important step towards getting widespread distribution for our tools. We also got valuable data which we are now analyzing and can hopefully present at the next Brown meeting,“ Prof. Goel said.

Anilesh Krishnaswamy and Sukolsak Sakshuwong contributed coding the interface and the algorithms. David Lee and Pranav Dandekar also contributed to the project. “Tanja Aitamurto was absolutely instrumental in developing this partnership, and of course the Brown Institute for providing both funding and an eco-system for this research,” Prof. Goel said.