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Thursday, 25 April 2019 03:53 am

Any questions for your politicians? Ask Away thanks to Meg Howie

Aug 26th, 2014 | By | Category: Editor's Picks, Latest News, Most Popular, News

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ASK Away is giving voters the opportunity online to ask politicians the questions that really matter and so far it’s been a huge success.

The site has hosted over 500 questions and 200 answers in the 17 days since it went live for the run-up to next month’s General Election.

Massey University student Meg Howie (right) has designed the site so individuals can ask politicians questions which have political relevance.

Members of the different political parties have the opportunity to answer each question and viewers are able to compare their responses and vote for their favourite questions.

Ask Away is aimed at young would-be voters who feel disengaged from politics and Ms Howie says it could help reverse the low voter turnout in this election.

“It gives voters a chance to raise the issues that are important to them and provides an entry point into the political conversation on their own terms.

“It also makes it much easier for the uninitiated to get a sense of where the parties stand,” she says.

“I think that creating a space where youth can see that their voice is heard and valued has powerful potential for their political engagement,” she says.

It enables them to focus directly on political ideas rather than having to filter through the dirtier side of politics, she says.

“In contrast with the political spin that has been influencing mainstream media, Ask Away offers a more direct, transparent way of interacting with our representatives and that’s really exciting.”

The parties have been responding positively and Ms Howie says the politicians also have something to gain from Ask Away.

“We’ve had a great response from almost all the parties. National and the Green Party have been especially consistent in answering”

“They definitely see it as a good way to connect with young voters, and a helpful way of prioritising the questions to respond to,” she says.

Here are a few examples of questions which have had a range of responses across the political spectrum.

“What will you do to change New Zealand’s climate change policies so that our gross emissions don’t continue to increase?” Which received 266 votes.

“Is it time to stop measuring progress by GDP and start to think about national well-being instead? 141 votes.

Both had responses from five or more politicians from different parties.

The Ask Away project began last year as part of Ms Howie’s undergraduate in design at Massey University.

She wanted to help eligible voters feel engaged and says she felt like there were better ways for them to access information.

“We needed to be involved in a conversation, not just on the receiving end of long lectures about why we should care.”

Although the current focus is the September election, Meg wants Ask Away to continue to provide a direct form of communication for voters and she says it could be effective at local body level as well.

She hopes to inspire others to enhance her concept and make their own versions.

“It’s an open source project, which means anyone, anywhere in the world, can download the code and run their own version, and can also contribute to the existing code,” she says.

To ask a question visit https://nzelection.askaway.org.nz/

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is is a Whitireia journalism student
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