Candidate Map is a prototype, open-source web app that helps voters find a suitable electoral candidate. It served as the first step towards creating a fully-fledged open-source framework for Voting Advice Applications in a three-year project, dubbed OpenVAA. In late 2022, the project received funding from the Finnish innovation fund Sitra and was started in Jan 2023.
Ehdoskartta will not be developed further, but the lessons learned from creating it serve as a great starting point for the OpenVAA project, which builds an open-source framework for Voting Advice Applications. The project has started in 2023 and ends in 2025. For more information, see openvaa.org.
A version (in Finnish) of Ehdokaskartta that uses data gathered by Yle, the Finnish broadcasting company, for the Finnish 2021 municipal elections data can be found at ehdokaskartta.fi. The source code is available on Github.
For a quick introduction into the project, please see my 5-min talk at the Visualising Knowledge 2021 conference.
Since Yle’s pioneering 1996 Election Compass, VAAs or Voting Advice Applications have come to play an important role in elections, especially in polities with a fragmented party system. Their main purpose is most often to try and match the voter with suitable candidates or parties based on an opinion questionnaire, which both the candidates and the voter fill.
As befits their increasing uptake, a substantial body of research has also been published regarding VAAs. The literature sheds light on a number of tricky and interesting issues concerning VAAs. These learnings coupled with Yle’s own hope for a less text-based interface served as the basis for the project.
Naturally, only a subset of the identified issues could be addressed and it scarcely is feasible to construct one VAA that could deal with all of those. Rather, and appositely for the domain of democracy, a plurality of VAAs with different approaches probably is the right answer. The purpose of the prototype was, thus, to test novel solutions to some of the concerns, especially:
Presenting the candidates on a 2-dimensional map instead of a list
Making inputting answers less rigid and less tedious for the voter
Allowing further filtering of the candidates
Incorporating party averages into the results
Assuming a mobile-first approach
Facilitating studying the political landscape in general
The app used Google’s Angular library and Material Design components. The source code is available on Github, where the motivations for pursuing an open-source approach are presented in more detail. The OpenVAA project, however, started from scratch using the learnings from Ehdokaskartta but not its source code directly.
You can try Ehdokaskartta out (in Finnish) at ehdokaskartta.fi. An in-depth discussion (only in Finnish as of now) about the solutions offered and their shortcoming can be found at ehdokaskartta.fi/about.