Govpack is a WordPress plugin and data research service intended to make building election guides easier as well as provide voters and constituents with easier access to contact information for public officials.
In development since 2020 with generous support from Newspack, the American Press Institute, the Knight Lab at Northwestern University, Chicago Standard and core development led by Powered by Coffee, it was created by Fernando Diaz to leverage WordPress and Gutenberg blocks to streamline the production process of voter education materials and establish a standard for structured data about public officials.
Govpack was also created to address the wide gap in structured data about local elected officials, typically considered “down ballot” races at election time. Because elections in the U.S. are managed by various agencies at the local, state and federal level, there is currently no standard for data about public officials. Govpack researchers partner with local news organizations to compile data from primary sources as well as trusted third-party sources to collect as much information as is possible about candidates for public office and elected officials.
The first release includes support for more than 70 data points that are found in sources like Open States, Ballotpedia, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, Open Secrets, ProPublica Congress API and the @unitedstates project.
How to install Govpack
If you’d like to install Govpack on your site, you should download the latest plugin release from WordPress.org or the GitHub Releases page and upload that file using the plugin installer in your WordPress admin interface. If you have any trouble, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Frequently Asked Questions
Why did you make Govpack?
We were Inspired by Poderopedia, Open States, Chi.Vote and the experience of covering numerous elections over years and in different communities. Oftentimes, news organizations are scrambling to put together comprehensive election guides with limited resources and time. Then, after the election is over, they move on. All of those efforts are trapped in time and of limited value. Govpack provides a CMS-native solution that leverages the investment in editorial resources and allows for its dynamic reuse well after an election.
What can I do with Govpack?
Govpack was designed for news organizations that want to create election guides and enrich their content with images and data for public officials. As a publisher, you can insert profile blocks into stories that contain a photo and other relevant information about that official, thus providing direct access to those officials. Govpack can also be used to create directories. Over time, we also see SEO value in the “posts” that are created for each profile, since local news organizations are often the only ones providing coverage of local officials.
How much does it cost to use Govpack?
The plugin is, and always will be, free. The project is currently self-funded by Chicago Standard and will soon be seeking funding to build out new features and respond to user feedback. Chicago Standard also provides data and research as a service for modest fees that allow for college students to participate in the process in a paid capacity.
Can I use Govpack if I’m still using the Classic Editor?
Unfortunately, no. Govpack leverages the Gutenberg editor to make it easy to insert profiles using the profile block, which is a fork of the standard WordPress Author block; populating the top of a public official’s profile page with the meta profile block; and combining multiple blocks to create associations like elections, caucuses, or directories. There has been some interest in making a version that can leverage short codes to insert profiles into posts but that feature is not currently on the roadmap.
Where does your data come from?
We obtain our data from a number of sources, both paid and free, that include Ballotpedia, the Center for Tech and Civic Life, ProPublica Congress API, Open Secrets and the election agencies that are primary sources for this information. We attempt to provide a base for our partners to “seed” their directories that they can later complement with local officials that are not in those larger data sets. When resources and time allow, we assign researchers to “complete” profiles by locating information about candidates on the internet, other sources and if needed – and possible – contacting the candidates and/or public officials directly.
Do I need to know how to code to use Govpack?
Nope! That’s one of the main reasons we built Govpack. Previous efforts at sophisticated election guides require(d) developers with expertise in devops, and/or languages like Python or Ruby and oftentimes frameworks like Django, Flask or Rails. You can use the same commands to insert Govpack blocks as any others inside the Gutenberg editor and you can modify the display of those blocks using the built in block editor. You can create and modify profiles one at a time, or import profiles in bulk using [this templated .csv file]:https://bit.ly/3B3embK
Do you provide training or research support?
We’re happy to provide training for newsrooms that want to use the tool and are currently working with more than a dozen to produce election guides and other materials for the 2022 U.S. midterm elections. We can also provide research support for modest fees.
Can I use Govpack to track legislation?
Not yet! This is something we’re very interested in doing and know is possible but have focused our current development on building the base of profiles that we might later append legislation to. If you’re interested in developing a solution to track legislation, please email us at email@example.com!
Can I use Govpack to make a directory of cricket players?
Technically, Govpack provides a base of structured data and a few simple tools that could be “forked” to address a number of different applications. We have gotten interest for different applications from a number of publishers. At the moment, we’re squarely focused on public officials in the U.S. But if you want to request this or any other feature, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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