Ever wondered how the Swiss keep track of how to vote? A more direct democracy means making up your mind for parliamentary elections, executive elections and about four referendums per year. Which I guess is why Smartvote, a Swiss voting advice app, has become popular in recent years. At the start of an electoral period, candidates answer a questionnaire, which results in a political profile saved on the site’s database. You can see the results of this profiling on a neat mapping app (click display and then scroll over the dots for details).
That’s already a wealth of information to have on who you’re voting for. It gets better: voters can take the same questionnaire that political candidates took, and find out who matches their views best. Many other countries have websites that make this kind of information available. Some even allow you to compare the voting records of specific politicians. What makes Smartvote stand out is the easy visualization of many candidates together (particularly useful for systems where voters elect lists and not individuals) and the ability to put yourself on the same map.
It doesn’t look like the site does this for specific referendum topics, but it probably wouldn’t be much of a stretch for the model. And if it were, wouldn’t it be fascinating to see a map of candidates in relation to peace issues and policies? Not a simple question of pacifists versus non-pacifists, but a more nuanced, questionnaire-based mapping of values. This could include how candidates would like their country to act vis-a-vis certain conflicts, how they perceive their role in international organizations designated to keep the peace, and how much of the state budget they believe should be spent on defense. Perhaps the questionnaire would also ask candidates to speak their views on internal peace: how they balance freedom and security, how heavy handed law-enforcement can be , and what priority they give to social cohesion.
Would we then vote for peace, I wonder? Would a peace agenda – clearly visualized, easy to see where everyone stands – trump other issues?