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The Last-Minute Hennepin County Candidate-Picking Tool

Note: this tool only covered the April 29, 2014 primary. Subsequent endorsements and support will change answers for the May 13, 2014 general election. We'll either publish a new tool or cover the options in general-election stories.

Tuesday is the primary to succeed Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman, whose district covers St. Louis Park, and southwest and downtown Minneapolis. (Polling place finder here.) If you haven't studied up, we've built the Last-Minute Candidate-Picking Tool©.

Start with any of the 20 yes/no questions most important to you, and choose the next-most-important, until your candidate emerges — it won't take many questions. If you want to try a different path, just start over.

And if you're hungry for more, please read our candidate interviews and op-ed. Those stories are also linked under the candidate photos.

Comments (8)

All politics, no substance

I assume this is a joke. But what or who are you mocking? Our electoral process? The position of Hennepin County Commissioner? The candidates?

If it all comes down to who supports whom, it seems more like a high school popularity contest than a county commissioner election. These are off-year special election voters that are working to understand the candidates, their vision and positions on issues, and how they will work with the rest of the board and other stakeholders. They don't need a Buzzfeed quiz to figure out who which Disney Princess or Friends character they are, or which popstar should be their best friend.

No joke

Nikki - no, it's not a joke. The information, for the most part, is information the candidates themselves tout, in their direct mail, emails, etc. It's clearly important enough for them to tell voters about.

This piece is designed to be complementary to the 12,000 words of copy, in four Q&As  and an op-ed, that we ran last week. That's why there's prominent linkage to those features in this item.

It would be nice to think people would be deeply, granularly informed, but if you get the same last-minute "who should I vote for?" calls from friends, you know that sometimes the filters are not as profound as we'd choose. But again, these are mostly things the candidates themselves emphasize.

One reason there are fewer issue dimensions is that, frankly, the 4 DFLers do not differ greatly at this point on the merits of isssues such as SWLRT. (There's a question above that gets at the biggest substantive difference among all candidates.) The lack of issue disagreement has made candidates' biography and endorsements relatively more important, another reason we focus on that here.

The Last-Minute Tool is iterative, and we do appreciate feedback for the next one. Substance is good, and we'll try to find a way to pack as much of it as possible into the next iteration, depending on the supply of substantive differences.

We hope a sense of play can help get people more interested in the race.

No joke, but...

I have to say I share Nikki Carlson's sense of dismay at this piece. Granted, it does provide quick facts, and if these facts were presented differently I might be OK with the interactive tool. As it stands, however, its "playful" tone can easily be misread, and it looks to me to trivialize a very important race. The top candidates are highly skilled, complex people, and I would say this quiz hardly even begins to tell their stories. I would urge readers to at least click through to those interviews and op-ed and to look for the nuances that are sadly missing from this page.

Is it really that playful?

I mean, we're acknowledging that there are deeper ways to choose out there, but if you haven't paid attention, this is a better-than-nothing alternative. We're not so much excusing needing something like this as we are acknowledging. 

Again, we offered up the deeper story-telling last week, so I appreciate you encouraging people to read that. And we do aspire to gamify with the most substance, so, like I said above ... iterative.

two topics

Thanks for the response, David. Here's my belated reply:
1. I'll grant that "playful" is not the right word. But you did use "sense of play" and "gamify," which set off some alarm bells for me. Rich interactive content can be a great thing. Gamification is a slightly different concept, and it seems riskier to me--could be good but is harder to get right. A trite or trivial game mechanic bolted on to site content tends to be counterproductive. While I agree that candidate profiles can benefit from rich-interactive (I liked MinnPost's in the mayoral race last year, for example), I'm not sure that this is a good place to try to "gamify." If gamification is a strategic goal of MinnPost, I would humbly recommend reading Ian Bogost on the subject. I haven't read his book "Newsgames: Journalism At Play," but it may be of particular interest.
2. I might have been less harsh on this Last-Minute Candidate Picker if it had less of a tone of certainty, e.g. if it had said "I want to learn more about a candidate who..." instead of "I want a candidate who...". As a voter who was also a campaign volunteer last year, I spent a fair bit of time doing research on this election from December through April. I had the privilege of meeting four different candidates individually for coffee. I'll admit that part of my strong reaction is pique, after putting all that time and thought in. But I also have to say that I can name two different candidates whom I had all but ruled out early on in the process, due in no small part to criteria that appear as quiz questions here. After learning more, I changed my mind and ended up supporting these candidates in the primary and general special elections respectively.

Okay, David, I'm persuaded

You explain your reasons very clearly. I rarely comment on-line, and don't recall getting a direct response, so thank you for that as well.

Thanks, Nikki

I appreciate you being open-minded here, and I will be as well. This adds fuel to my argument that journalists should participate in comment threads ... with reasonable critics!

Again, appreciate the consideration.

You could have used a better picture of me.

Thanks for doing anything about this race. It is hard to get information out on elections this time of year and Karen did a great job with her thoughtful questions.