With the field of presidential hopefuls stretching far and wide, picking the right candidate feels like a daunting task. Sorting through the abundance of information about each one is time-consuming and intimidating. And can we even trust the barrage of sound bites?
Like many successful apps in the marketplace, Voter was born out of a felt need. Hunter Scarborough found that working more than 12 hours a day at his marketing job didn’t give him sufficient time to research when elections rolled around. He admits, “I was frustrated. I didn’t want to vote on a sound bite from my uncle or a sound bite from a news anchor. So I was left with two options: either vote on things that I didn’t feel super informed on, or not vote at all.” Like so many Americans, he wasn’t satisfied with either choice.
He imagined an app that would conveniently match him with a candidate that thinks the same way he does and has a track record to back it up. “I figured there had to be a way to leverage technology to make the process faster and easier and to get me the information I could trust, quickly,” he remembers. Two years later, Hunter and his team launched Voter. Simply put, it’s a dating app for politics.
So how does Voter work? Users answer a few questions with a quick tinder-like swipe of the screen. The app then analyzes the candidates’ available voting records, public speeches, and campaign financiers to determine a perfect match. A list of candidates is presented, and users browse their matches. Each candidate is given a percentage score. In other words, users are notified that Candidate A is a 99% match, Candidate B is 75% match, etc. The interface is clean, simple, and quick.
But Can We Trust Voter?
According to a Gallup poll, 82% of Americans don’t trust the news media. We’re looking for reliable new sources of information. Voter intends to meet that need.
But how do we know we can trust its data? Hunter explains, “Once we started to tackle the project we realized a lot of the hard work had already been done for us.” Several nonprofits including the Sunlight Foundation and Open Secrets have already collected raw data from speech transcripts, voting records, and campaign finance records. All that information is organized into APIs that Voter can easily plug into.
From there the whole process is automated and hands off from a human perspective — avoiding any potential bias. The matchmaking process is a mathematical algorithm. The automation is what makes Voter so trustworthy. You can’t argue with numbers.
Hunter admits that there’s not a perfect solution to predict how any candidate is going to behave in office. But Voter analyzes objective data to help users research candidates with confidence. For instance, if Candidate A mentions immigration three times in a speech and the economy fifty times, it’s reasonable to assume that the candidate prioritizes the economy over immigration.
Hunter adds, “All this data could be overwhelming for a human being to analyze. So we’ve automated it.” Voter is striving for authenticity. The hope is that the app will provide voters with an authentic picture of each candidate.
Though it’s launched with just Presidential candidates, the hope is to continue to expand to include Senate and Congressional candidates and eventually even help voters in local elections. Hunter explains, “We have a long feature list we’re building out and hope to have most in place before the primaries.” He sees the app as a great tool for voters listening to a host of candidates saying the same things in different ways. He adds, “Voter can be a tool to cut through the rhetoric and help determine differences based on how candidates have behaved in the past. It can give you a better idea of which candidate deserves your vote.”
In a country whose political divide continues to increase, there seems to be one thing on which we can agree. Hunter suggests, “No matter what political orientation you have, everyone is in agreement that we can do things better. There’s a lack of trustworthy information out there about our candidates.” But Voter is taking steps to change that.