Google and public engagement

Guest post by Carole Garrison

Politics are constantly changing so is the way we interact with candidates. One interesting change is the ability for people to submit questions using Google Moderator. Charlottesville Tomorrow and The Daily Progress are employing this technology for their upcoming debates for the Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors races.

Google Moderator is a tool that allows users to submit questions and vote for other peoples questions. Google’s reason for this app is to let the audience decide and to let everyone’s voice be heard. This tool is not only used for debates but also presentations and lectures to help engage the community. Public engagement is always a good thing especially when it involves politics.

When I saw this, my first thought was that it was a bad idea for debates. The main reason I like to go to debates is to see how the candidates react to questions that are not scripted. I read various groups’ Voter Guides. However, with questions provided in advance, candidates have the ability to work with staff and respond with the most politically advantageous answer. When you ask a unexpected question in a debate you usually get what the candidate believes. That is why I also like debates that take questions from the audience. Those questions may not be hot topics but are still important to the community. Even so, I can see where Google Moderator would be good for this as well. It definitely would allow more of the community to have a voice.

I think Google Moderator is a wonderful idea, not only for the voters but also for the candidates. They need to be aware of issues that are going on in their community and I think Google Moderator is a civic engagement tool that will allow for this.

I hope groups that use Google Moderator would use these questions as well as allow for questions from the audience at the debate. After all, if I just wanted to read the campaign canned responses, I wouldn’t go to debates in the first place. I would just read Voter Guides or listen to campaign speeches.

Carole Garrison is president of the Virginia Peninsula MAL Unit of League of Women Voters of Virginia.