Vote Mate is a website and app created by Burnaby teen. (Black Press Media)

B.C. teen creates app to help voters know the issues ahead of Election Day

Laef Kucheran initially created the app when he was just 14

A soon-to-be first-time voter is hoping to arm Canadians with a little more information come Oct. 21.

Laef Kucheran, who lives in Burnaby, will be voting in his first election in a couple of weeks, but the 18-year-old has been preparing for this day for a very long time.

Four years ago, he created Votemate.org, an app and website that gathers candidate lists and party platforms from across Canada all in one place.

One tool lets you compare platforms on a given issue and stances as you go. The app will tally up which party you agree with most.

“I was intrigued about democracy, about how people are informed or not informed,” Kucheran told Black Press Media by phone Tuesday. “What you know, what you don’t know and how that affects your willingness to do something.”

What he found was that many people were interested in issues like housing, climate change or LGBTQ2+ rights, but not the finer details of electing people to public office.

“They were interested in what you accomplish using democracy, but they weren’t interested in the actual running ballot,” he said.

Kucheran said a lot of information is available in the media and on political parties’ websites, but most people don’t have the time, or desire, to go through all of that.

He said many of his peers are interested in politics as well and wish they could vote.

“I talk with a 16-year-old who’ll say, ‘I’m really interested in the government’s position on climate change, or LGBTQ rights… but I still don’t know all the parties.’”

When those teens get to voting age, the interest in politics remains – as does the lack of clarity.

“All of a sudden, they have a lot of other stuff to deal with. They have to look for jobs, look at post-secondary and they also no longer have the time.”

Although he had younger people in mind when he created the app, he says many of his users are in their 40s, 50s and beyond.

“In the end, it’s not something that’s about the technology, it’s about something that’s easily accessible.”

Kucheran, who has operated the website through two previous elections, said this is the first time he’s working with riding candidates to add their information to the database.

“I think it’s 90 per cent of people who vote on the party, not the candidate,” he said. “Yet, it’s the candidate in the end who’s going to represent you as an MP in Ottawa.”

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