VoteLocal: Helping Kiwis Take Part in the Future of Their Cities

  • 2017

  • Social Impact

Designed In:

New Zealand

VoteLocal is a groundbreaking game-like questionnaire that guides people towards the mayoral candidate whose policies and ideals best match theirs. It provides information about candidates and what they stand for, informs users about what councils do, and debunks the assumption they aren’t relevant. VoteLocal fosters more genuinely representative politics.

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  • The core feature of VoteLocal is matching the compatibility of candidates with users. These match results are presented at the end of VoteLocal's questions across three tiers of information; the Top Three matches provide a succinct and visual display of matches; the Result Card ranks and visualises the top eight candidates to make it easy to compare; and the Question Cards graphically show the user's responses alongside the responses of the closest eight candidate matches. This benefits the user in understanding their candidates, where they stand, and becoming more aware of how their political values match up. This is also beneficial in preferential voting systems where voters must rank their candidates.

  • The visual style of VoteLocal is engaging, fun, and accessible, while maintaining the integrity of the context and content. Given the coded nature of politics, the tool balances the use of vibrant colours associated with political parties with pastel tones favoured to negate connotations. Additionally, a mature illustrative approach was taken to reach the desired sense of fun and approachability. The style is unique among the expected visual vernacular of New Zealand politics, and stands apart from the typically utilitarian VAA (Voter Advice Application) design. This is a key feature of VoteLocal that benefits the tool's ability to engage an audience of 18-34 year old New Zealanders, particularly non-voters.

  • New Zealand's local elections tend to be void of party politics (and it's left-right spectrum), and issues can be quite specific and hard to speak broadly of. A key VoteLocal design feature responds to this: the 'slider scale' question format. It asks users to balance two competing interests of a particular topic on a scale, and uses a slider interface and equaliser overlay to convey their balance of priority in response to the question. This reiterates the idea that managing a city is a balancing act. The benefit of this feature is that it's easier to quickly summarise complex information, understand differences among candidates, inform voting decisions, and adequately reflect political values and attitudes.

  • Between every question, a custom city would be built by users. Based on how users respond to questions, a new 'piece' relating to the question topic would be added to their very own cityscape. At the end of all questions, the user's custom city would be complete and made available for sharing via social media. The custom city avatar benefits VoteLocal as a fun incentive for users to continue answering questions, sustains interest, and increases traffic and shareability of the tool and traffic. Additionally, it illustrates how a decision at a council level impacts the cityscape and how their vote makes a difference. This has shown to be successful with 258,087 total questions answered and an 84% completion rate.

    VoteLocal is the only online tool that specifically addresses the needs of young undecided and first time voters by helping them navigate the complexities of local government. The initiative applied a user-centred process to develop a digital interface that is familiar to them, and in a vernacular that is accessible to a youth audiences while maintaining the gravitas of political content. VoteLocal is social and shareable sparking conversations about politics; it enabled easy access to more information about candidates, the mechanics of local government and local elections.

    VoteLocal was run across three centres: Wellington, Auckland and Palmerston North. Each iteration designed to reflect regional political issues. The three centres were chosen because: the size of Palmerston North made it a suitable testing ground for future iterations for smaller centres; Wellington was a suitable testing ground for other larger centres such as Christchurch and Hamilton; and Auckland, our largest city, is an electorate where young voter turnout is particularly low and its demographics made it a compelling challenge with low turnout among youth, Asian and Pasifika peoples. VoteLocal can be replicated for local body elections worldwide and there's already international interest in the tool.

    VoteLocal was designed to provide key metrics on the success of the project itself. With over 20,000 people using VoteLocal over a four week period we were able to find out how successful such a tool is. The popularity of the tool largely came about through word of mouth and social media sharing. With 258,087 questions answered, we found: VoteLocal had an 84% completion rate; 57% of users were under 35, and 26% were under 25, the most disengaged group of electors; 31% said they had not voted in local elections before, and 86% said VoteLocal improved their understanding about what local councils do; 41% of users said VoteLocal motivated them to vote, and 44% had their mayoral vote influenced by VoteLocal.