Gamifying the political process could score a more engaged voting public, said Dan Prince, co-founder of the American Voter App, explaining the still-developing technology would be the first to put the power of the ballot box conveniently into users’ smartphones, he said.
“We all realize our obligation to be informed and educated and vote on things, but it’s gotten really difficult to do,” said Prince, who also serves as CTO of the Kansas City-based startup, as well as CEO and founder of tech consultancy firm illumisoft — citing inaccessibility to polls and lack of education on issues as factors that play into the complex issue.
The app — currently being prototyped by three core team members and contracted illumisoft employees — is expected to make civic duty simpler and more accessible by allowing citizens to cast ballots in-app during elections.
“Even in a heated election, we get maybe 50 or 55 percent of registered voters out to vote,” said co-founder and CEO Blake Donaldson. “What could that number be if you didn’t have to go to the polls and if you could [hold a ballot] in your hand and vote. Could you double that number?”
The startup aims for a user base of 2.5 million to 3 million by the 2020 elections, he said.
American Voter App has the potential to be the exclusive platform for voting at the federal level within two years, said Prince, which would persuade individual states and municipalities to adopt the free-to-use app.
The team has a goal of 1,000 beta testers in the coming months, said Donaldson. The hope is to reinforce the platform as the early 2019 campaign for funding awareness begins. The end of 2019 is reserved for rolling out an MVP and Series A round, he said.
Click here to register for beta testing.
Other features of the app would include incentivizing all citizens to become politically active through a rewards system tied to sharing opinions and voting on bills as they arise, he added.
Any vote on a bill is expected to automatically send a message to the specific constituents’ Congress person expressing the users’ opinions, they said, noting users can select issues they’d be most interested in.
“You can filter what you see, as far as who’s voting on what, either just within your constituency, or ‘What does America think about Missouri’s bill?’ It may be that people have opinions on it and that would change your opinion if you knew the rest of the country does want us to say ‘no’ to this thing,” said Prince.
Keeping track of such data has the potential to hold area legislators accountable by providing real-time insight into the feelings of the citizens on any particular issue, Donaldson added
“If I go and write a letter to my senator and tell him, ‘Hey, vote ‘no’ on that,’ — if he votes against me, I don’t know if I was a minority in the vote or if he voted with the Super PAC that gave him $50,000,” he said. “We don’t know those things.”
With the current state of politics, elected officials vote on bills before communities even hear about it, said Prince, noting the time when representatives knew every single person in their respective communities has passed.
“So what is driving their vote? I mean I can only imagine, but I don’t need to solve that,” he said. “What I need to do is bring the power back into the hands of the people and then everything else will flesh itself out.”
Those too young to vote but interested in politics can also participate in the polls, activities, and voting — though without any active effects, said Prince, noting the importance of such a perspective.
Bringing the app into schools to encourage political activity and voter registration holds appeal, said Donaldson.
“We know this is a desire,” said Prince. “I mean everybody in America thinks there’s a better way to vote than what we’ve been doing. We all know that, but why hasn’t anybody engaged it and built this out?”
“We have yet to talk to anyone about it who has said, ‘Oh, that’s not a good idea. That’s not going to fly,’” said Donaldson. “Everyone will use it. That’s been probably my biggest driving forces because I’ve thrown it out there to so many people, and not just people that like me.”