The 2020 elections are fast approaching in the United States, and as people prepare to vote (often from home, by mail) they’re looking for information that can help them make up their minds.
At first glance that seems surprising: Surely almost everyone has made up their minds about whether they support Donald Trump or Joe Biden? While the sliver of voters who are still undecided about the presidential elections is small, there’s more to the US election than just the presidency. This year, 35 seats in the US Senate and all 435 seats in the US House are up for election. In addition, state legislatures, state ballot initiatives, and a host of other races (including school board members and county drain commissioners in some states) are up for elections.
Coverage of state-level elections is spotty on Wikipedia. The coverage of some states in some years is excellent, but most lack even the most basic set of information about the election. Like everything else, the articles that get written are those catch the interest of Wikipedia’s volunteer editor base. In August, to try to get better information relevant to voters in the 2020 elections, we ran our Informing Citizens Wiki Scholars class.
Several participants in the course focused on state-level election pages. New articles were created about the 2020 Tennessee Elections and 2020 Kansas Elections, while a new article about the 2020 Colorado Elections was created jointly by a class participant and another Wikipedian (in the serendipitous way that collaborations sometimes work on Wikipedia). Other people focused on specific issues, like improving the Oakland Unified School District or the 2020 California Proposition 14 article. Given the relevance of climate change to voters decisions, another participant decided to improve the volcanic gas article to make it clear that the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by volcanoes is small compared to anthropogenic emissions.
Courses like these are important ways to encourage subject matter experts to contribute their research skills and knowledge to Wikipedia, ahead of when these pages will be most important as voters seek neutral, fact-based information. To see a current list of course offerings, visit learn.wikiedu.org.