Welcome to the District Council Monitoring Project, assessing candidate transparency and communication for the District Council Election 2023.
In the run up to the election, our first spotlight is candidate response rate to “mystery constituents” contacting candidates (in English or Chinese) with questions on their manifesto or policy platform.
A bi-partisan complaint during the District Council election nomination period was a lack of respect, transparency and communication from the nomination committee members. If nomination committee members could be found, they rarely responded – our founder James Ockenden had just four responses from hundreds of calls, messages, emails and visits to ~80 committee members (out of 178) who could be publicly found.
Given the government’s claims on “improved” district governance, we have now launched this first candidate spotlight to assess geographical election candidate response rate in the run-up to the election.
Starting with two districts (representing four constituencies and eight of the 88 geographic seats to be polled), our “mystery constituents” are contacting candidates (in English or Chinese as they prefer), using their full names and telephone number/email address, raising local district issues and with questions or comments on their policy platforms. Emails are sent individually to the addresses given by the candidates on their government-sponsored contact page.
Auto-replies are disregarded. But all other responses, even brief or perfunctory acknowledgments, are recorded in the first instance.
In case of very brief responses, our mystery constituents may send a follow-up question or comment: brief responses to the follow-up or responses which still fail to address the question will not be counted as a response.
Mystery constituents will only send a maximum of three messages to each candidate in total, including follow-ups and chasing/reminder emails in case of no response.
Important: our goal is to get responses and improve electoral communications. We are not trying to catch people out. Mystery constituents are instructed to write clear, pleasant and engaging messages; the maximum email limit means candidates will not be spammed.
Post-election, we will hone this methodology to monitor incumbent District Councillors (appointees and committee/geographically elected) response rate and effectiveness.
For comments, enquiries and volunteering opportunities please contact James Ockenden on firstname.lastname@example.org