By Derick Downey, Multimedia Specialist & Mitch Downey, UX Developer, EveryVote.org
At the time of writing this, there are 10,393 bills before the US Congress, and thousands more at the state and local levels. Only a tiny fraction of these bills are covered in television and print news media; meanwhile, the internet allows access to unprecedented amounts of civic data, but is so vast and disjointed it turns-off everyone but the most web-savvy political zealots. The result: most Americans feel overwhelmed by the political process, alienated from their elected representatives, become cynical about the integrity of the US government, and tune-out.
EveryVote.org is an open-source, non-profit project in development trying to address these problems by making in-depth civic engagement as easy and fun as using Facebook or online dating sites. We believe EveryVote’s ease-of-use and robust functionality can inspire younger generations to participate in elections, and older generations to participate on the internet.
The primary functionality of EveryVote is to provide users with an intuitive interface that enables users to vote on bills, officials, candidates, other EV users, and organizations, and then to automatically compare their voting preferences with all other voters’ preferences on the site.
Other essential functions include: sending registration deadline and election day reminders; helping users run for office themselves; facilitating organized representative-to-constituent and user-to-user dialogue; providing democratic news sharing tools; and much more.
EveryVote will debut hosting all the legislative and electoral API data of the US Congress available online, but any user can add their own governing body’s information (with its own custom parameters) to the EV platform and make use of the same civic engagement tools. This means K-12 students can use EV to manage the legislative and electoral procedures of their own student council or mock government as part of a civics education curriculum. And if EV can help manage student councils, maybe it can help PTAs, teacher’s unions, and any other organization with legislative and electoral procedures.
As a user browses the site, EV automatically compares that user’s voting record to the records of officials, candidates, other users, and groups, and displays the result as a % correlation next to that person or group’s profile picture.*
On the bills page, users can learn instantly how the people and groups they support or oppose are voting on that issue. For example, 8 of 10 groups a user supports are voting in favor of a bill, the groups/supports databox would display a green +60%; if the same amount were voting against, it would display a red -60%; and a split of 5 yeas and 5 nays would display a black 0%.
Ultimately, since EveryVote is an open-source platform that allows users to add and facilitate their own government or organization’s legislative and electoral processes, EveryVote’s goal is to promote democratic civic engagement across the world.
For more information about the EveryVote project, please visit our homepage and signup for the EV mailing list. Our goal is to have a limited-functionality beta of EveryVote finished by Fall 2012. If you have any questions, or would like to help create EveryVote with us, please email the EV team at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow EveryVote on Twitter at @everyvoteorg. Like them on Facebook at here.
Mitch Downey is an EveryVote co-founder and user experience developer and Derick Downey is EveryVote’s multimedia specialist.