‘Ehdokaskartta’ challenges traditional voting advice applications just before the elections
Ehdokaskartta [Candidate Map] is an application based on open source code and data from Yle’s election compass. In addition to performing the functions of traditional voting advice applications, it can be used to explore the political field as a whole. Originating from Aalto University, this application is a first step towards developing an open platform for voting advice applications.
Voting advice applications are popular in multi-party systems such as Finland. They can be compared to Internet search engines when voters are looking for candidates.
‘The new Ehdokaskartta presents the results on a political map with the voters themselves in the middle’, says Kalle Järvenpää, developer of the application. ‘Another key difference is that the questions can be answered in any order, and it is easy to skip questions.’
Ehdokaskartta does not only list candidates based on how well their answers match your opinions, but it also provides ways to understand the entire political field and to select candidates based on a variety of criteria, such as age or political party.
The prototype for a new voting advice application will be used for the first time in the upcoming municipal elections, and it will obtain its information from Yle’s election compass.
‘In municipal elections, 1163 candidates from 17 different lists compete for the seats in Helsinki. Without voting advice applications, the task would feel as hopeless as looking for a needle in a haystack’, says Kalle Järvenpää.
Aiming to create a voting advice application for all users
Yle published the world’s first voting advice application in 1996. Now the 25-year-old application has established itself as an institution. The popularity of voting advice applications has increased in almost all age groups of eligible voters, and for the youngest voters they are already the most important information source when making voting decisions.
Since they play such an important role in the realisation of democracy, applications such as these should be based on open source code.
Both large and various smaller media houses publish their own voting advice applications. In the last parliamentary elections, there were 15 different applications available from the media alone. One would imagine that the high number would also be reflected in the range of applications available. However, all the applications are very similar in terms of their implementation, and their progress has been slow.
One explanation for the uniformity of voting advice applications is that only a few manufacturers produce them. As many as 12 of the 15 applications in the parliamentary elections were made by two Finnish companies.
‘Since they play such an important role in the realisation of democracy, applications such as these should be based on open source code. In that case, their programming errors or anomalies would not remain hidden. It would also be possible to build parallel, experimental applications. The service could be used by all democracies instead of only Finland’, Kalle Järvenpää lists the benefits of open source voting advice applications.
Developed by Järvenpää for the municipal elections, Ehdokaskartta has two tasks. Through the working prototype, it will prove that it is possible to create a voting advice application based on open source code. Ehdokaskartta will also be used for collecting user experiences on its features that differ from traditional voting advice applications.
After the municipal elections, the development project will continue on a broader scale and with more partners. The aim is to develop an open platform for voting advice applications for both domestic and international use.
Ehdokaskartta is available online at ehdokaskartta.fi (in Finnish only). Kalle Järvenpää hopes that users will send feedback via the application or fill in a user survey.
tel. +358 50 357 2769
Kalle Järvenpää, a student at the Aalto University Department of Media, is a multidisciplinary designer whose background lies in graphic design. Aalto University has supported the development of Ehdokaskartta. The data used by the application has been obtained from Yle, who will publish it in an open format at a later date.