VoteMate combats voter apathy and lack of information by connecting voters and candidates.

The problem

Decreasing voter turnout has been a consistent problem in Canada — and much of the West — for several decades. In Canada, voter turnout has hovered around the low sixties for the last two decades, while youth voter turnout has hovered around the low thirties.

A lower voter turnout means that governments represent fewer sections of the electorate, and are oftentimes less responsive to the needs and demands of their citizens. Clearly, increasing voter turnout is an important and necessary task.

Analysing the problem

The strongest predictor of whether a citizen will vote in a given election is whether they've voted previously. If a citizen was able to vote in the previous election but didn't, they most likely won't vote in this one. So, if we want to create voter turnout overall, increasing first-time voter turnout is the logical starting point.

According to research done by Elections Canada, the largest perceived cause of low voter turnout amongst youth is young people "not feeling represented" or not seeing policies on issues they care about. Yet analysis of party platforms in Canada has indicated that most parties do have policies on issues that youth care about.

The second largest perceived cause of low voter turnout amongst youth is a "lack of information, understanding, knowledge". This would also explain the above discrepancy: Politicians and the media have been unsuccessful at communicating policies with youth, and thus youth are unaware of the policies that would care about.

Developing a solution

One of the places youth do get their first exposure to information on political subjects from is social media, with interested youth often then jumping off to explore topics in more depth on YouTube or through news articles and Wikipedia. I knew instinctually that the ease-of-use that exists with social media would have to be a core part of whatever solution I'd develop. The solution would have to compete with social media, and so would have to provide the same stimuli and positive feedback from usage, and would have to have barriers to use removed in the same way.

Most political information is disparate and found in different places of the web: On Wikipedia, news websites, and political campaign pages. Putting it in one place would already be a great improvement. Placing different types of information in one place (backgrounders on issues, the policies of the parties, and the news and relevant background on each of those policies too) would be useful and would be something that no one had really quite done before.

Such a source had to be easy-to-access, both as a spur-of-the-moment exercise, and as an exercise experiencing return or casual use, similar to how users of Instagram will often scroll through streams to calm down, decompress, or as a form of recreation. It also had to be visually appealing and addictive to use.

The solution

Making that one place a website would make it easily accessible as a spur-of-the-moment exercise, and making it an app would make return or casual use easier.

Making it a website or app would also allow the solution to use the already-familiar designs, concepts, and terminology of the technology it would be competing against.

So that's what I did: I built