Session
FOSDEM 2021 Schedule
Lightning Talks

Patching Democracy

A short introduction to voting advice applications and why we might not need to hack democracy
L.lightningtalks
Till Sanders
We introduce the concept of a VAA by example of the well-known German "Wahl-O-Mat" and show how to run an election compass for your hometown using the free and open source OpenElectionCompass.
A voting advice application is a great way to support elections and democracy as a whole by making the parties or candidates more transparent and comparable. The differences between political parties are often difficult to understand for the voters, especially for first-time voters. To make elections more accessible some countries have started to offer election compasses, or VAAs. Services like these help citizens getting to know the parties or candidates by presenting a carefully chosen collection of political statements. The users and the parties both take position to these statements. Based on this, voters can quickly get a comparison between their own opinions and the positions of the parties. In Germany, this service is implemented by the bpb, the Federal Agency for Civic Education and is called "Wahl-O-Mat". In the Netherlands this concept is called "Kieskompas". Software like this has developed in the early 2000s and evolved ever since. Running such a project offers great value to citizens, the political system and our democracy. It is also very expensive. Implementing an election compass is not only time consuming, but also requires great technical knowledge. Usually, there is no election compass for smaller elections, because hiring software developers is simply out of budget. OpenElectionCompass offers a free alternative – free as in free speech as well as in free beer. The requirements for a voting advice application are very similar, be it for a small or a national election, for an election in Berlin or an election in Brussels. OpenElectionCompass aims to provide a free solution, simple to configure, customize and deploy. By continuously improving our project, we have an advantage over agencies doing this only every few years. And by not developing behind closed doors, we are transparent and open for everyone. This talk will give an introduction to the concept of VAAs by different examples. It will deliver background knowledge about matching algorithms and provide hands-on guidelines on how to run your own election compass using the OpenElectionCompass. How to get started, build a team, develop statements, address parties, configure and deploy the OpenElectionCompass, attract attention and so on.

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