The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday September 29th

Chapel Hill and FlashVote partner to address community needs, increase engagement

DTH Photo Illustration. The Town of Chapel Hill is partnering with the FlashVote Survey Platform to better understand citizen questions and concerns. FlashVote is a platform that will help connect the town to citizens faster.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. The Town of Chapel Hill is partnering with the FlashVote Survey Platform to better understand citizen questions and concerns. FlashVote is a platform that will help connect the town to citizens faster.

The Town of Chapel Hill recently partnered withFlashVote, an online survey platform that works with local governments to gather feedback from residents on important issues to the community. 

FlashVote has partnered with local governments in over 25 states and works to reach a broad range of residents by phone, text or email. Respondents remain anonymous. 

Ran Northam, communications manager for the Town, said Chapel Hill’s work with FlashVote began in spring 2022. The program will help acquire statistically valid information directly from the community to better serve residents on local government issues.

The survey questions are professionally written by FlashVote and final results are delivered to the local government within 48 hours after launching the survey. 

According to a press release from the Town, the surveys will take community members less than a minute to complete and they do not plan to send more than one poll per month. 

Northam said that Chapel Hill has a population of more than 60,000 people when students are living in the area. In a previous survey about the effectiveness of Chapel Hill’s weekly newsletter, there were about 600 responses, Northam said. 

“As you can see, that’s a tiny percentage of our community and we want to be able to get more opinions, and not just from people who are connected to our channels,” Northam said. 

He said he hopes to see the community embrace FlashVote's surveys because the process is a quick and easy way to weigh in about local government. 

Kevin Lyons, co-founder and CEO of FlashVote, said that he started work on the organization in 2013 and it started taking local government contracts in 2016. 

“We had to do a lot of testing and iteration and user interviews to really figure out how to get regular folks to take surveys — how to make them something they would enjoy taking, participate, complete fully and keep coming back and taking more surveys,” Lyons said. 

While Northam said that there has been some community hesitation about FlashVote, he said the Town will work to show residents that it can grow into the platform and use it as a helpful tool.

Adam Oppenheimer, a resident of Chapel Hill, said he believes the use of the platform brings a number of problems.

He expressed concern over the limits of FlashVote's community reach, noting that some residents may not often use the internet or social media. Oppenheimer said that the surveys may disproportionally reach a younger or non-working class audience. 

"The Town has publicized this vote on Twitter, which probably appeals to people between 20 and maybe 40 by now, but sure doesn't reach out to everyone," he said. 

Oppenheimer also added that he is worried about self-selection, research bias resulting from participants’ abilities to choose to participate, and a lack of coverage stemming from some communities having limited access to the internet.

Some areas in rural Orange County do not have reliable internet access – about 6,400 homes are in the process of being given access to Wi-Fi through the Orange County Broadband Initiative. This process could take up to six years, Orange County Commissioner Sally Greene told the Daily Tar Heel.

In response to critiques, Northam said Chapel Hill is working with FlashVote to get a well-rounded representation of the community.

"We know that we're going to have to grow into this platform, and again, use it as just one of the many tools that we have to gather public input from our community," Northam said. 

The FlashVote sign-up information can be accessed here

@sam_long16

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.



Comments

The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for March 7, 2022

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive