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Sunday, 21 April 2019 02:08 pm

Online voting tool a big hit for people ‘On the Fence’

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ON THE FENCE had over 100,000 users in August, three times more than was recorded during the 2011 election.

 New Zealand based voters aren’t the only ones using the voting simulation tool and users have been recorded in 120 countries.

The take up of On the Fence has been phenomenal, says the lead designer behind the project, Kieran Stowers (above).

Users are asked to rate how much they agree with a range of political statements based upon current topics and policies.

Rather than having a yes or no system, users can indicate how much they agree or disagree with each statement, recognising that users could be shades of either.

When they are done answering, the tool will analyse their responses and produce the top three political parties suited to them.

Newswire asked five young voters to try it and give some feedback andthe following are their responses:

Kiran Horrocks, 19, a first-time voter, was undecided on who to vote for prior trying it out.He found On the Fence helpful and says it reinforced his position on particular parties. He also found it accurate as he was matched with the two parties he supported the most.

Steven Davison, 21, says On the Fence was useful as it provided confirmation on which parties best represented his beliefs.

Alistair Gorin, 28 says he was surprised by the results and will have to re-think his vote. “I hadn’t really thought about Internet Mana as a contender for my vote, but now I will have to look more in depth at what they are standing for,” he says.

Samir Parbhu, another first-time voter found it helpful as it refined his voting options and he now feels confident about making a decision on election day.

Lucy McMaster says she had made a decision before taking the voting simulation test but says it’s a great tool for young voters.

“I think it’s a helpful tool for younger people where this is their first time voting and they have no idea of anything to do with politics,” she says.

On the Fence is a response made by a team of designers from Massey University to 40 years of continual decline in interest and participation in New Zealand politics.

Mr Stowers says it is an effective way for young people to take control of their vote.

“If participation is just left to ticking the box, who has power the rest of the time? Too many young people have no confidence or belief in the relevance of politics in their day­to­day lives and so see no point in voting.

“It is successful in helping people engage in political thought, discussion and action because currently, the language of politics is difficult to understand,” says Mr Stowers

He says the responses from users of all ages have been positive and constructive.

“We have had a lot of great feedback saying how genuinely surprised and relieved both young and older people were that there was a tool available to help them through the often tricky mess of rhetoric to help them at least make a start in their political walk,” says Mr Stowers.

Users are spending close to eight minutes on the site considering and answering questions on policy areas such as social welfare, education, Treaty of Waitangi, immigration and the environment.

“It’s pretty significant because in an age of ‘instant gratification’ and notoriously short attention spans, to be able to capture young people’s imaginations and thoughts for that long shows that young people aren’t apathetic or lazy, they are showing us that they are thoughtful, considerate and civil,” he says.

Mr Stowers wants On the Fence to continue to be a useful tool for voters.

“We hope it can become useful in all sorts of places—from student body elections, local elections and more.

“We’ve been getting requests for On the Fence from all around the world, it’s really great to see and we’re very positive about what could happen in the future,” he says.

To try it out visit

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is is a Whitireia journalism student
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