Candidates and voters who want to connect, get policy information and find out what political party has the most momentum in their riding can log on to a new website —www.votevancouver.org — developed by 14-year-old twin brothers who go to school in the Tri-Cities.
And if you think this website is just for kids, guess again. It's as sophisticated and useable as any other website currently available with information on the Oct. 19 federal election.
Laef Kucheran, the website creator, said he started work on the project last spring to help his mom, who said she didn't have enough information to be able to vote in the Burnaby North-Seymour riding where the family lives.
"We wanted to create something that could make a difference. We also wanted to combat some myths about strategic voting, so that people could actually easily see who was the most likely to win; not to stop strategic voting," said Laef, who is in Grade 9 at School District 43's Inquiry Hub school in Coquitlam.
Several candidates and voters have signed on but Laef says he needs more of each to get a good picture of the 25 ridings that make up the Lower Mainland, and he says there are lots of advantages for candidates who provide information.
"You can talk with voters, make announcements and organize discussions," he said.
Here's how it works: A voter indicates their voting preference in a riding, and can state why they chose a candidate. They can also change their choice if their opinion changes over time. The website tracks voter preferences, and if candidates submit policy information, it will compare that as well.
"We don't want this to be an advertising opportunity for the candidates, we want it for voters to help them choose the candidate," Laef explained.
His bother Alin, who also attends the Inquiry Hub, did the web graphics and another boy, a 13-year-old from White Rock, created mockups and helped with testing.
Laef, who taught himself programming, launched www.votevancouver.org this fall and is trying to get voters to use it and candidates to send in their information.
"Probably the largest difficulty is getting candidates and getting users," he told The Tri-City News. "We've had much more success with finding candidates, though we still have a long way to go. As for users, we need at least a hundred times as much as we have so far."
Their school, which encourages students to work on projects that interest them, allows them to work on the project during the day.
"What I love about it is that for the most part, kids aren't involved in politics because they can't vote," said the Kucherans' principal, Dave Truss. "Even students can have their views and it's powerful."