Politics are heavily influenced by money belonging to the billionaires and insiders who make up about .05 percent of the American public. And in some cases, a candidate’s chance of success depends on playing the game by their rules.
Lawrence Lessig calls these fortunate few the “Lesters.” A study from Princeton University claims that America was in fact not a democracy nor a republic, but rather an oligarchy. Additionally, a recent New York Times/CBS Poll shows that four out of five Americans believe money has too much influence over political campaigns. But civic tech can be a great tool to empower greater equity in politics as we know it.
My name is Andy Curran, and I am the founder of a new civic tech project called the WeVoteProject.org. WeVote is and always will be a neutral arena for political discourse. Through our use of the Sunlight Foundation’s Open States API, we are able to build a new kind of social network — one that is entirely focused on building a bridge between the public and their elected representatives on the state level.
This bridge provides both citizens and elected officials with total legislative transparency as well as the communication tools of a social network. On top of this functionality, we have added one very important caveat: In order to contribute to the body of knowledge on WeVote, a citizen user must validate their status as a real registered voter.
What’s our plan?
The vast majority of people might think you’re crazy if you told them you plan to systemically change politics to better represent the wishes of the average American, but if you start challenging the way those people think about the problem, you can start seeing politics through a different lens — the lens we use.
And through our lens, we follow three key market factors that have formed an important window of opportunity. This window won’t stay open for long, but if we can raise enough money through our Kickstarter campaign and channel the frustration with our current political system, we can change the game forever.
Here are the three key factors:
- Social Factor – America’s trust in government is at an all-time low. We offer an alternative means of decision-making, one that crowdsources sentiment from the very constituents the legislation in question will affect.
- Economic Factor – Every year it seems we reach new records in campaign spending, and next year is certain to be one for the books. If you want to change the system, stop basing your voting decisions off of those slick TV ads and mailers, and engage your candidates on WeVote’s upcoming Caucus App. You can ensure it will be ready for the 2016 election year cycle by contributing to our Kickstarter campaign.
- Technology Factor – Currently, we think there is no site in existence that can match WeVote’s level of information transparency and communication capabilities. We will continue to create an even better environment so everyone, no matter political ideology or affiliation, has the chance to become informed, engaged and empowered.
There are plenty of civic tech startups right now trying to “make the world a better place.” But it’s my experience as a political activist turned chief of staff to a state senator that has given me the full perspective of the fundamental disconnects that hinder any real political progress — and we’ve designed WeVote to remedy this disconnect.
We’ve given our users total control of what’s important and what’s not.
What we don’t do
- Filter site information based on the user — there are no filter bubbles here.
- Put a price tag on the expression of ideas.
- Push an agenda, other than transparency in government, citizen involvement and being against Internet censorship.
We are excited to work toward real political change, and that begins with changing how we see the nature of politics. So please, consider a contribution to our Kickstarter campaign and make your vote count!
P.S. Be sure to check us out and vote for us during #MIN75 at Google’s offices in Cambridge, Mass., on Wednesday, June 10.
Interested in writing a guest blog for Sunlight? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org