Candidate Biographies Switch to Markdown

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Candidate Biographies Switch to MarkdownCandidates have long been able to load their biographies into the ElectionsOnline system by visiting a web page and submitting their biography through an online rich text editor. The particular editor used was the same one built into many leading content management systems. It is a very popular, capable and easy-to-use editor.

Why Replace It?

Three reasons:

  1. As capable as it is, formatting a candidate biography is really a very light-duty operation not requiring the level of functionality packed into a leading text editor.
  2. Pasting text from a word processor means the potential for inconsistent font size and style across candidate biographies on a single ballot.
  3. More important than robust functionality is the need to impose maximum character limits.

And that last point gets particularly problematic when using a rich text editor because the number of characters a user sees in the editor isn’t really the number of characters that get passed to the database for storage. Behind the scenes there are characters used to apply formatting to the text and in some cases, those characters outnumber the actual text! That’s a problem when trying to impose a maximum character limit on what the candidate submits. It can create a frustrating experience for an end user when what they see in the editor is well below the announced maximum character limit, yet are precluded from submitting additional content.

There’s a better solution—Markdown! Markdown was created specifically to create rich text using a plain text editor. It’s not something anyone needs to learn or have any previous experience with and the Markdown quick reference—which accompanies the biography editor—makes things simple for first-time users with a fuller reference available online. Anyone with previous experience using Markdown should be aware that the ElectionsOnline solution supports a subset of the complete Markdown syntax supporting only those text formatting tools appropriate for use in a candidate biography.

Editing Biographies as Election Manager

This switch to using Markdown only applies for candidates submitting their biographies. When election managers edit biographies through their client account, they will still use the rich text editor. The reason being that the rich text editor makes available a couple of additional formatting controls which could be useful when formatting something other than a biography. For example, a change to a by-law or referendum.


This completely eradicates some of the confusion that has arisen regarding maximum character limits and guarantees uniform styling across all biographies. It’s a good thing and ElectionsOnline is excited to take this step forward