An app that aims to make picking the right political candidate as effortless as finding a Tinder hookup is extending its reach to include statewide races.
The Voter app launched last fall with an interface that borrows the swipe-right-swipe-left metaphor of dating apps to provide recommendations for the 2016 presidential campaign. It offers political matches based on how users respond to a series of yes-or-no questions. The latest version, available Tuesday, offers the same guidance for U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races.
Chief executive and founder Hunter Scarborough said he set out to create a mobile app that solves a problem for millennials like him: People who are skeptical of traditional news sources, but lack the time to scrutinize candidates’ voting records, speeches or endorsements.
“I was working very long hours — 12-hour days, 14-hour days. When it came to an election, I didn’t have time to do research. I was frustrated by the lack of objective information. I was at a loss,” said Scarborough. “In the 21st century there’s got to be a way to take technology and make that process easier.”
The app is one of a growing number of ballot guides designed to arm voters with information before they enter the voting booth. Sean Parker’s Brigade offers similar guidance, though it also incorporates a social networking feature — as one might expect of the former president of Facebook.
Scarborough said he was sitting at lunch one day when a friend urged him to check out the dating site OkCupid. It seemed the perfect fit for providing a match of a different sort. Within a week, the graphic designer developed a mock-up of what would become the Voter app and began showing friends and family.
Their enthusiastic response prompted him to seek a partner with experience in app development, Voter’s co-founder and CTO Sonny Nyamathi. The app officially debuted Sept. 17 — Constitution Day — after a soft launch on July 4.
The app requires little introduction: Swipe right to vote “yes” and left to vote “no” in response to eight policy questions: Abolish the death penalty? Keep abortion legal? Decrease military spending? Repeal Obamacare? The answers lead to suggested party affiliations.
The answers to the next set of questions — including topics like requiring background checks to buy a gun, sending troops to foreign wars, restricting the NSA — produce candidate recommendations. Users can then learn more about each candidate, including the issues on which they agree and disagree, the top five corporate donors and a brief biography. Users can contact the campaign or, if they wish, make a contribution.
“Most political tools out there are made by politically engaged people for politically engaged people. That is the opposite of us,” said Scarborough. “We synthesize all this complex stuff, so that on the surface it’s easy, but under the hood it’s complex.”
Voter derives its recommendations from a variety of publicly available sources, including the research of such nonpartisan, nonprofit groups as the Sunlight Foundation and Open Secrets, and voting records from GovTrack.us. A team of researchers also evaluates a candidate’s public remarks to glean his or her stance on key issues.
Scarborough is courting a constituency of a different sort these days as he seeks to find investors in a seed round that would finance creating an Android version of the app. The current app is available only on Apple devices.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.