By Sarah Lugaric, Strategy & Partnerships, PollVault
Don’t Sweat the Ballot…
It’s like a bad dream. You walk into the final exam only to realize you’ve unwittingly neglected to study for over half the material on the test. But what if you happened to have your smartphone with you, pre-loaded with advice from the smartest students in the class on how to answer every question? And what if it was OK to use all that information, as long as it helped you arrive at the best answer?
In this case, it’s not your final exam – it’s your ballot on Election Day. And what most voters don’t know is that you can, in fact, bring your smartphone into the ballot box, and use it to help you make better voting decisions.
We’re hoping voters get that message this election season with the introduction of PollVault’s “See Your Ballot” tool. PollVault is a new site that enables anyone with an Internet connection, a few friends, and a few minutes of time to start making voting decisions that better reflect their values. PollVault gives voters access to an online version of their ballots and allows them to crowd-source ballot advice, or crowd-poll. And on November 6th, voters will be able to refer directly to this advice on their smartphones when filling out their actual ballot, allowing them to vote with new-found confidence.
“See Your Ballot” is the realization of PollVault founder Nolan Love’s 10-year dream to use technology to empower democracy. After a stint in the Peace Corps where Love witnessed rioting in the streets by citizens demanding fair elections, he was dismayed when he returned in 2000 to find an increasing feeling of disengagement from voters who had witnessed the overturn of the popular vote by the Supreme Court. He wondered why the country that created Google and Apple (and later, Facebook and Twitter) couldn’t find better ways to apply technology to empower citizens. After a decade developing custom web solutions for corporate clients, Love enlisted the help of a small, self-funded team of close friends to bring his dream to life just in time for the November 2012 election.
Old School vs. The Millennials
The problem is that up until now, getting ready to vote has been pretty old school. It involved scanning voter-guide booklets, leafing through stacks of flyers, and searching websites to see who your favorite organizations were endorsing. This contributed to a sense of overwhelm and confusion for new and experienced voters alike, creating unnecessary barriers to participation in the democratic process.
Our goal at PollVault was to modernize this process by allowing people to get help making voting decisions the same way they get help choosing doctors or car mechanics – by seeking the help of their friends. PollVault users can choose up to ten organizations, public figures, and/or trusted friends (we like to think of it as your own “Presidential Cabinet”) to help them learn more about key ballot measures and prepare their informed votes. The result is an easy-to-read grid showing voters their virtual ballots next to the endorsements of their advisor panel, which may include a personal colleague, the Sierra Club, the NRA, or Lady Gaga, for example.
This approach to voting is clearly a natural fit for tech-savvy voters – in other words, most Millennials. Rock the Vote and HeadCount, both of whom focus on empowering young voters, spotted the potential of PollVault’s “See Your Ballot” tool early on and are featuring it prominently on their websites this election season as a cornerstone of their voter education efforts.
A Proud Partnership
We are also proud to partner with the American Democracy Project and The Democracy Commitment who have been working on initiatives such as eCitizenship and the Engage the Election: 2012 to help inform and empower voters on campuses and universities throughout the nation.
This afternoon, The Democracy Commitment, in collaboration with the American Democracy Project, invites you to a joint webinar to represent and demonstrate PollVault along with another exciting election tool, Politify. If you are unable to make that date and time, the webinar will be recorded and posted online for later reference for anyone who wishes to view it.
In the meantime, please check us out at www.pollvault.com, and please send along your feedback either via through our site https://www.pollvault.com/polls/feedback or on our newly launched blog http://pollvault.wordpress.com/.