Ahead of November’s general election where Philadelphians will have the chance to vote for a new governor, U.S. senator and local representatives, the The Mayor’s Office launched an updated and more secure voting website.
The Office of Innovation and Technology (ILO) digital services and software engineering teams associated with Office of Municipal Commissioners to build vote.phila.govwhich contains information on voter deadlines, how and where to register to vote, how to request an absentee ballot, and how to find your polling place, among other details.
The site was launched at the end of August after a year of work by stakeholders, according to Karissa Demi, director of software engineering for OIT. Demi said the new website was a complete overhaul of the old one, which had been around for about 10 years.
“The idea is that you can find everything that was on the old site, but hopefully in a bit more streamlined information architecture,” she said.
This site is also safer than the old one, Demi said. At the time of the 2020 elections, when there were many concerns about election security, the ILO took a deep dive into its current website. Once they realized how old the system and servers were, they decided to take action – it was running on a content management system that was no longer supported, which was a risk for the safety. Demi said her office decided to work with city commissioners on the overhaul because they were dealing with something “insecure.”
The team also made improvements to make the website faster and more mobile-friendly, and they made some accessibility improvements. The site now works well with screen readers, making it easier to navigate the site for people with visual impairments.
In addition to practical information about voting, vote.phila.gov has information for poll workers and for those who might be wondering how to volunteer at the polls. There is also a Candidates and Campaigns section offering information for candidates and a Resources and Data section which provides links to various places where City Commissioners manage their results information.
And you can also find important dates, news articles, press information and contact information for city commissioners, Demi said, as well as an internal search function. Demi said the Office of City Commissioners has also revamped the site’s content to make it easier to read and translate.
“The main improvement of the new site is that it is human-translated into Spanish and Chinese, whereas the old site just used Google Translate, and that was adequate, but often not ideal,” he said. she stated.
This website also hosts the city’s first progressive web app, which means you can add the website to your phone’s home screen and access it as if it were a native app. Demi said this feature was a priority from the start because city commissioners wanted the site to be accessible to as many people as possible.
“It was a way for us to give this functionality without needing to build a native app,” Demi said. “We have a good team of developers, but we don’t have anyone who can do native app development for mobile devices.”
OIT has an external sites project that allows it to create these sites relatively quickly, using a custom-built in-house infrastructure. Demi said the infrastructure was already there and formed the basis of this new website. Software engineer Jai Pyneni did most of the WordPress and frontend work, software engineer Derrick Dieso builds the framework for external sites, and Stacy Finnaren, a digital designer, designed the site’s new look and feel. According to Demi, the goal of the new site is to make it easier for users to find the campaign resources they’re looking for.
“The goal would be that if you haven’t registered to vote, the site helps you get there. If you need to receive a ballot by mail, you can do so,” she said. “Really anything about getting people to the polls. That’s what the site is, is supposed to do.
Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-