A website designed to help people figure out who to vote for on the basis of what they believe and what options they prefer is proving a big hit and encouraging election participation, say its instigators.
The Vote Match (www.votematch.org.uk) site has now had over 320,000 people using it, and is on track to reach the half a million mark by the end of the campaign on 6 May.
Proven to increase turnout amongst younger voters in other European countries, the Vote Match idea is being described as "a fun and easy way of finding out where the parties stand on the issues that are constantly ranked as the most important to people."
It is also helping people to question the status quo - with a huge number of people discovering that they are much closer to the Greens than the 'big three' corporate parties, for instance.
Commenting on this news and the recent polls, Peter Facey, Director of Unlock Democracy, who are promoting Vote Match, said: “With this election seemingly a three horse race, Vote Match is the equivalent of the Racing Post. Vote Match is designed to try and help the genuinely undecided ‘punter’ make an informed decision on who to trust with their vote... Vote Match provides a quick and easy way to research the runners and riders.”
The Vote Match site is also designed to provide a shot in the arm for political participation by helping people make an informed decision at the ballot box, on the issues that matter to them, say its backers.
Tomorrow (20 April) is the last day to register to vote at this election.
Unlock Democracy is urging people to exercise their democratic rights by going on the Electoral Commission's website www.aboutyourvote.com.uk and registering to vote.
While run by Unlock Democracy, a non-party reform organisation, Vote Match has an Advisory Board chaired by the former Head of the Electoral Commission, Sam Younger.
Voters are asked to answer a number of agree/disagree statements about policy, and then to rank them in order of importance to them. They then get a match based on how their answers compare with the parties answers to the same statement.
Simon Barrow, co-director of the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia, said: "Vote Match, along with the hung parliament initiative Hang 'Em (http://hang-em.com/), is one of a range of web-based tools which is helping to change the electoral landscape in Britain, along with the seismic shifts we have been seeing since the first Leaders' Debate."
He continued: "With the corporate parties keen to claim a continuing monopoly on power, whether there are two or three of them, persuading people to think, vote and participate differently and creatively is vital. Democracy has to be renewed and improved from the ground up. That is why a hung parliament is so vital: it will force the monopolists into a position where they will have to change to survive."
"Likewise, votes for the Greens, for the SNP, for Plaid Cymru, for other smaller parties and independents - excluding the racists and xenophobes, of course - can only help build the pluralism and vibrant political alternatives which are so lacking at the moment. Vote Match, Hang 'Em and vote-swapping sites can be used to ensure that votes are not wasted, in spite of the appalling unfairness of the non-proportional, first-past-the-post system," said Barrow.
Ekklesia, which focuses on religion and society issues, but also promotes a wider conversation on beliefs and values, has argued that underneath the 'big party' dominated Westminster poll is an 'ethics election' which revolves around issues that many politicians want to avoid - economic justice, deep environmental and lifestyle change, the elimination of poverty, radical political reform, handling migration with hospitality and humanity, and many other concerns.
"Voting for a change" is possible, says the think-tank, if people refuse the limited choices the party machines are trying to impose.
Seeking to be a politically neutral tool, Vote Match is the official UK Partner of StemWijzer, developed by the Institute for Political Participation in the Netherlands.
Originally a paper-based quiz started in 1988, one in three Dutch voters used StemWijzer in the run-up to the 2006 Parliamentary elections. The German Wahl-O-Mat was used by one in five voters in the run up to the 2005 Parliamentary elections.
Vote Match is a project of Unlock Democracy in partnership with Telegraph.co.uk and Goldsmiths University of London. The statements were devised with the help of an independent academic panel based at Goldsmiths.