Seeing through the murky veil of politics gets harder and harder as rhetoric rather than results make headlines. At last week’s New York Tech Meetup (NYTM), there were a couple of examples of ways technology can help government be more efficient (see slideshow)—and one demo that could call out politicians for ignoring their constituents.
Maria Yuan said she founded IssueVoter to give people an equal voice in the political system. She previously served as a campaign manager in Iowa, which is often an early battleground on the road to presidential elections. Yuan said people often get interested in candidates and government during election season, but then stop interacting with and watching government the rest of the year.
There were many other demos at NYTM this month not related to government—including a Web app that helps high school students get around paying multiple fees to apply to colleges—but the current political climate, heightened by next year’s presidential election, made IssueVoter.org stand out.
At the website, voters can find the elected officials who represent them, and see if they supported or rebuffed issues that are important to the voter. “As the two party-system becomes more and more polarized, it’s individual issues that matter,” Yuan said.
In addition to showing how politicians actually vote, IssueVoter will send alerts to users when bills related to topics that matter to them get introduced. “Consider it your cure for political FOMO,” she said.
The site summarizes the legislation, and shows pros and cons, as well as recent news related to the matter. IssueVoter users can then send their opinion on the bill to their representatives. People can keep track of whether the bill passes, and which way their representative voted. “You can see what percentage of time your rep is representing you on the issues you care about,” she said.
It can be laborious for voters to keep track of the action their representatives take. Given that their salaries are paid with tax dollars, Yuan compared this to hiring an employee and never really seeing their work. “That’s essentially what happens when we vote and reelect,” she said. “Incumbents are reelected more than 90 percent of the time. If they’re not representing you that’s ridiculous.” In a sense, IssueVoter is a way for the public to essentially see whether they are getting their money’s worth.