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On January 3rd, Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) began voting on a constitution long in the making and, within a few days, citizens started to cast their votes. Not via referendum, but with an online voting platform that allows citizens to read and vote on each article simultaneous to the NCA. The site, thrown together over the weekend by members of Tunisia’s civil society and open gov movement, gives Tunisians a unique way to participate in the historical drafting of their constitution, and in turn allows the government to receive real-time feedback from the public.

Voting article by article for Tunisia’s new constitution on vot-it.org

Although Tunisia’s constitution is in its fifth draft and has been in-process for more than two years, it came as a surprise to many when voting began last week and a completed constitution was expected in 10 days. Achref Aouadi, founder of the anti-corruption non-profit I WATCH, has spent the last several years cultivating a national grassroots network of young people dedicated to transparency in Tunisia’s democratic transition. With this active and online community, Achref was able to quickly organize an interest around the constitution voting process and how thousands of eager citizens could get involved.

Achref called on Radhouane Fazai, ICT Officer for Democracy International‘s Tunisia office and member of Tunisia’s #OpenGovTN – an independent group advocating for transparency, open government and open data. Achref had learned about DemocracyOS, an open-source platform for voting on political proposals, and asked Radhouane if he could customize and launch it for Tunisia’s constitution. By the end of the weekend, Radhouane created the beta site vot-it.org that lists the constitution’s articles and allows viewers to vote and comment on each one.

In collaboration with another civil society-driven project, each article page on vot-it links to the original text provided by Marsad.tn, a project of the Tunisian non-profit, Al Bawsala. Marsad.tn monitors the NCA and provides Tunisians with access to information about their elected representatives, including a full listing of the constitution’s 146 articles. As the NCA votes on each article, I WATCH representatives are in the Assembly’s hallways, and when possible in the room, holding a banner that displays the latest citizen votes on the article at-hand. More than 3,000 votes have been cast on vot-it since its launch a few days ago, the numbers increasing every hour. Whether or not NCA members consider these voices as they vote, Tunisians are making sure they are heard with a savvy combination of online participation and offline activism.