A Nebraska David Outmaneuvers a Global Goliath

A group of young men in Nebraska are singlehandedly (or multi-handedly, to be more precise) eviscerating the stranglehold broadcast and print media have had on political speech since the first reporter scratched “Og no good” on the communal cave wall.

Using a combination of programming wizardry and personal experience gained from navigating the legislative process, these men have constructed the “We Vote Project.”  It is a game-changer in every sense of the phrase.

Here’s the short version: money and influence crowd out citizen involvement.  Letters, phone calls, and e-mails to representatives are often counted rather than read.  Unless you bring a large constituency with you, your ideas or opinions are of little to no interest to your elected leaders.  Right or wrong, this is simply how the system has evolved to deal with digitally enabled increases in communication.

Likewise, following legislation is time-consuming and nightmarish for the average voter.  The process is maddening, made all the more difficult by a phalanx of lobbyists, staffers, and “stakeholders” who muddy the water to hide their agendas.  Not to mention the public hearings, almost exclusively scheduled during the working hours of us normal folk who can’t afford to miss out on the pay.

Compounding the problem is a gatekeeping media, who routinely limit the scope of discussion by determining what gets coverage, while increasingly pushing an agenda of their own.

The We Vote Project shatters these barriers.  Indeed, it obliterates them.

From their website:

We provide timely access to information on legislation in state legislatures (as well as nationally) and provide a verified way for citizens to express their opinions on an issue with their representative.

Note the word “verified.”  You know what happens when citizens call their representatives?  Essentially, nothing.  Same with e-mails and letters.  For the staffers who field these calls, there is no efficient way to ensure they are talking to an actual constituent.  We Vote fixes this by verifying the voter registration of every participant as a prerequisite to full interaction with the site.

The advantage of our approach is that all support would be recorded in one place, on one platform, and with one voice.  And the platform would allow for a conduit for elected officials to communicate their response to individuals they know are their constituents.

A We Vote user can address an issue, a bill, or a candidate on the site, then shepherd friends and supporters to his page.  An insignificant issue will garner an appropriately weak response, while weightier issues can consolidate support in a single, easily accessible location, where an office-holder will see that he is dealing with a highly motivated group of verified, actual voters from his district.

Anyone can browse the site, but the voter verification element is the ticket to active participation.  Many similar attempts at bridging the media-/lobbyist-created chasm between citizen and representative failed to take that all-important step of verification.

A congressman, senator, or even city councilperson remains utterly unmoved by vast numbers of calls, letters, or e-mails, knowing that the likelihood that these communications are genuine and organic from his district is quite remote.

We Vote fixes all that, as explained on the footer of the landing page.

Get Informed

Get to know your representatives: learn who they are and how they vote. See what bills are trending and hear each side of the issues that impact your life.

Be Heard

Verify your voter registration with us so your representatives will listen. Vote on the bills that your representatives will be voting on. Comment and share your position with others.

Make A Difference

Spread the word and gather support for or against a bill, candidate, or elected official. Build a coalition of verified voters using the Internet as your ally to effect real change.

We Vote’s verification element is catnip to an office-holder or candidate.  No politician can resist the prospect of dealing solely with those people who can retain or remove him from office.  On the other side of the equation, the citizen now has a way of bypassing the gatekeepers and countering the stifling influence of big-money donors.  Their numbers are their currency.

The website is not without competition, though.  There is a new venture by Brigade Media that aims to crush We Vote and dominate the conversation between constituent and official.  While Brigade has deep, deep pockets, what it does not have is an actual product.  We Vote does.

What Brigade also has is a cadre of big names in the world of social media, with Sean Parker (of Facebook fame) being chief among them.  Brigade sports a CTO from Yahoo and big dollars from a number of investors often described as “whales.”  Parker is slated to be CEO.

Those of you who are Facebook users will already have some idea of how Brigade intends to operate.  The people behind Brigade are the owners of that remarkably annoying thingy known as Causes.  You know, the Facebook app that generates the trillion or so daily messages from your Facebook friends that say, “So-and-so wants you to try Causes, to stop fill-in-the-blank.”  Those same messages that are deleted as quickly as they arrive.

We Vote, with a fraction of a fraction of the money already plowed into Brigade, has built the better mousetrap Brigade has only so far dreamt about.  And increasingly important in our fishbowl, no-privacy digital world, We Vote has done so without annoying anyone.

The We Vote Project is to politics what the internet has been to funny cat videos.  Prepare to be dazzled by the mind-baby of a few Nebraska guys who decided that politics is a wheel that needed reinvention.