Last year, the Voter app launched with the goal of helping voters assess political candidates via the same swipe-right-swipe-left interface as popular dating apps like Tinder.
When the app was first introduced last fall, it’s political matches were limited to 2016 presidential candidates. But as of Tuesday, Voter promises to make U.S. Senate and gubernatorial selections as effortless as finding a Tinder hookup in New York City.
Voter works by offering political matches based on users’ responses to a series of yes-or-no questions.
The app’s chief executive and founder, Hunter Scarborough, said he wanted to create a mobile app that responded to a practical concern millennials like him often face: Many are skeptical of traditional news sources, but lack the time or energy to dig deep into candidates’ voting records, speeches and endorsements.
“I was working very long hours — 12-hour days, 14-hour days. When it came to an election, I didn’t have time to do research. I was frustrated by the lack of objective information. I was at a loss,” Scarborough told Recode. “In the 21st century, there’s got to be a way to take technology and make that process easier.”
Scarborough wanted his app to make politics accessible to those who might otherwise be inclined to disengage altogether. Today, the app joins a growing number of voting aids designed to equip voters with information so that they can enter the voting booth with confidence.
Scarborough, a graphic designer, said the idea to create Voter hit him while he was sitting at lunch one day with a friend who told him to check out the dating site OkCupid. But Scarborough realized that he would rather be the matchmaker. A week later, he had the prototype of what would become the Voter app and began sharing his creation with friends and family.
After the app was met with general enthusiasm, Scarborough began his search for a seasoned app developer, which led him to Voter’s co-founder and CTO Sonny Nyamathi.
Voter made its official debut September 17, 2015 — Constitution Day.
The app is simple enough: Users are prompted to swipe right to vote “yes” and left to vote “no” in response to eight policy questions: Abolish the death penalty? Keep abortion legal? Decrease military spending? Repeal Obamacare? The user is then presented with suggested party affiliations.
A second set of questions, which include topics like gun policies, foreign military initiatives and the NSA, leads the user to candidate recommendations. Users can then read further on their suggested match, such as issues on which they agree and disagree, top corporate donors and a short biography. Users are given the option to contact the campaign or even make a contribution.
“Most political tools out there are made by politically engaged people for politically engaged people. That is the opposite of us,” Scarborough said. “We synthesize all this complex stuff, so that on the surface it’s easy, but under the hood it’s complex.”
Voter derives its content and recommendations from various publicly available sources, including the research of nonpartisan, nonprofit groups like the Sunlight Foundation and Open Secrets, and obtains voting records from GovTrack.us. The app also employs a team of researchers to evaluate candidates’ public remarks and provide his or her stance on major issues.
As of now, the app is available only on Apple devices, but Scarborough is currently seeking out investors to fund the creation of an Android version of the app.
Front-page image via Shuttershock