Animal rights, weapons exports, health care, fake news, refugees, sovereign debt, retirement and marijuana legalization. Those are just some of the issues on voters’ minds ahead of Germany’s federal election next month – and some of the issues the Wahl-O-Mat, Germany’s official voting advice application (VAA), quizzes its users on. With a reported 46 percent of voters undecided on which way to cast their ballots, the unveiling of the latest Wahl-O-Mat on Wednesday came with an extra sense of buzz and anticipation. Since first launching in 2002, the Wahl-O-Mat (roughly translated as “Vote-O-Meter”) has become an engrained part of the German election process. At Wednesday’s presentation in Berlin, the president of the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb), Thomas Krüger, described the voter tool as Germany’s “democratic national sport.”
The underlying principle of VVAs is straightforward: using a series of questions, the tool works out the user’s political proximity to the political parties. All 33 parties on the election ballot across Germany, bar the Magdeburg Garden Party in Lower Saxony, provided their input and authorized their policy stances.
While VVAs exist in many countries, few boast the kind of fanfare enjoyed by Germany’s Wahl-O-Mat. According to Krüger, some 13.3 million users used the tool ahead of the last federal election in 2013 and, according to market research firm YouGov, one in three voters intend to consult the app in the three-and-a-half weeks leading up the federal election on September 24.