This is the fourth feature in our 2017 entrepreneur series, highlighting IssueVoter, a nonpartisan platform for engaging all citizens in today’s politics.
IssueVoter Founder Maria Yuan served as a campaign manager in Iowa, managing one of the most targeted races – an open seat in a swing district. During the campaign she noticed constituents’ intense focus on the election. Yet she also knew people were disengaged the rest of the year – when the work that actually affects our lives gets done. While disengagement is widespread, Congressional approval rates are at an all-time low. Citizens are dissatisfied with their representatives, but with 90% of Congress consistently re-elected, it’s clear they aren’t taking action.
IssueVoter launched the day after the 2016 election, answering the question “You just voted, now what?”. Product demand was immediately validated, quickly acquiring users in all 50 states. As IssueVoter grows, the platform will continue bringing new voices into today’s democracy.
Fast Forward sat down with Maria this week to discuss the platform:
Why did you create IssueVoter?
New laws pass almost every single day, yet most Americans only hear about a few each year. “15 minutes of fame” bills like the American Health Care Act draw mass attention, but many issues that affect our everyday lives – like the Disarm Hate Act or Email Privacy Act – go ignored. Bills are hard to track and understand, and knowing when issues are up for vote in the first place takes a lot of work.
If you do happen to know a reason to contact your Rep, then sure, you can send snail mail, call your representative, or sign a petition. But these archaic communication channels require a lot of time and petitions are typically ineffective. Furthermore, technology has improved access to just about everything else in our lives. It’s time it does the same for politics.
How does IssueVoter work?
With IssueVoter, you start by choosing issues that matter most to you, like education, healthcare, or technology. Then, you receive alerts right in your inbox whenever there’s a new bill up for vote that matches your interests. IssueVoter translates each bill into layman’s terms, along with what both sides are saying and related news articles for context. Finally, throughout the year, IssueVoter tracks how often your elected officials vote your way, creating a personalized scorecard and helping you be a more informed voter at election time.
What makes IssueVoter unique?
In surveying hundreds of individuals across the US, I found that over 90% want to share their political opinions with their representatives, yet under 25% want to share political opinions with friends, family, or colleagues. Unlike other sites, IssueVoter keeps users’ individual opinions private.
What is your mission and vision?
IssueVoter’s mission is to give everyone a voice in democracy by making civic engagement accessible, efficient, and impactful. Our vision has four components:
- Voter participation: continuous engagement with issues and legislation emphasizes the importance of voting.
- Transparency & accountability: keeping voters informed on how their elected officials are voting is necessary for a well-functioning, representative government.
- Reduced outside influence: representatives hear from more voters and not just lobbyists and wealthy donors.
- Increased knowledge: year-round engagement raises awareness amongst friends on issues and showing both sides encourages healthy debate.
In the U.S. there are 200 million Facebook accounts, and also 200 million registered voters! Imagine if that many individuals – in addition to posting on social media – could read up on proposed bills in easy to understand language. Where they could share their opinions before their rep’s vote. And where they could see afterwards how their representative actually voted. That’s powerful engagement! And it’s already possible today. By making civic engagement accessible (online), efficient (easy-to-understand and quick to share your opinion), and impactful (by seeing real results), we could see the first Congress that is a true representation of its citizens in just a few years, creating the America we want to live in.
Want to learn more about IssueVoter or sign up? Visit www.issuevoter.org.