Smartvote is an online platform that facilitates the informed and active participation of people in politics by helping voters to learn more about political candidates in their area, matching users with the candidates that best represent their views.
In 2015, the level of trust in Government in Ireland is at just 26%, demonstrating that we are now living in a society in which the vast majority of people do not trust in Government. This deep level of distrust is disturbing. Lack of trust is considered to lead to resistance to paying taxes, damage to investor confidence, youth disinterest in politics, and low voter turnout. The last of these outcomes is of great concern when we consider that it can result in an inaccurate reflection of the will of the people. Whether low voter turnout is attributed to lack of trust, apathy, disengagement, or a combination of all three, it is clear that politicians are not reaching and connecting with would-be voters or communicating their message clearly enough.
The challenges faced by voters were illuminated for Keith Moore when he found himself unable to cast an informed vote in the 2014 local elections. He was deeply concerned by this, along with the apparent lack of political engagement he saw around him. He partnered with Gordon Rose, who was also frustrated by the lack of clear information provided to aid voters in making informed decisions. Seeking to break down the barriers between voter and candidate and change how people engage with politics, they created Smartvote - an app designed to help voters better understand which candidates are running in their constituency and what they stand for. By breaking down complex political issues into a series of engaging questions posed to voters and election candidates, each user is matched to the candidate that best represents their views.
Voting Assistance Applications are a well-established model which have seen great success across Europe, educating voters and increasing voter turnout. Used in Student Union elections and Dáil contests alike, the most recent use of Smartvote in the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election saw 57% of users discovering new candidates, with a striking 98% stating that they would use the application for the general election. Such successful numbers are a testament to Smartvote’s vision of a culture where citizens feel compelled to actively participate in the political process in Ireland.