Are you being heard?
When Paul Everton
wanted to express his
frustration to the government during the $700 million bailout he found
himself unsure of where to turn. Tapping into this growing sentiment
he and his brother created VisibleVote.us
to solve what they saw as the major
challenges to the average individual today:
feels powerless in making a difference in today's government and
• We are not sure
where to get fair and unbiased information on issues being voted on.
how laws and politics affect us personally.
• The system
too large and complex to be engaged using old technology like faxes
and voice mails.
• Political opinions
are charged with emotion.
Visible Vote does a good job of focusing
on and addressing those aforementioned issues. Once you enter your
personal information, you are provided with a visual list of your local
representatives and locally relevant topics. From there you are able
to vote on a wide variety of issues; the Arizona immigration law
(even though I am in New York City) and healthcare are just two examples
among many. Beyond
voting on issues currently in front of Congress, you can also support
new bills and participate in user polls.
My first concern
was how a person is
expected to vote on an issue when the majority of us are
not going to have time to read the entire bill and debate it with our
peers in order to gain an informed opinion. Can we really rely on the
average American to have anything other than a shallow and biased view
on a topic? Perhaps that's a bigger issue about how complex our
has become, but Visible Vote does its part in helping to educate their
Intuitively understanding that the
person has a short attention span while on the web, Visible Vote lists
a few of the main bullet points underneath the question with links to
more details. This paints enough of the picture for average Americans
to be able to register their opinions.
Visible Vote makes it easy to make your
voice heard no matter where you are or what platform you are using:
an iPhone app, Facebook app, compatibility on a PC or a Mac, and even
a simple web based version. Now while you are waiting in line at the
coffee shop in the morning you can pull out your iPhone and make sure
you are up-to-date on the latest topics in front of Congress.
The "stats" section contains a very slick map of the United
by selecting an issue from the drop down menu, you can see support for a
specific issue by state. The same can be done for Presidential and
Does It Go?
Fascinating stuff. But the big question
is, so what?! So what if this site is capturing your opinions? Do they
do anything useful with it? VisibleVote says in its FAQ section that it faxes the data to Congress:
don't allow anyone to email them directly and they require you to
them through convoluted websites. To solve this problem Visible Vote
had to send all messages via Fax. Visible Vote sends faxes to each
official for the Vote Tallies and individual messages through Visible
Vote. The faxes are received electronically by Congress (we called them
to make sure we weren't using too much paper)."
This is where the crux of the
success or failure of Visible Vote sits. If government officials don't
care, don't read the data and aren't impacted, then what's the
point? I suppose it still presents the average person with a way to
learn and register their opinion, but it seems much less interesting
From a government official's
however, I do see a tremendously positive possible use. They are
polling, trying to understand their constituency and trying to better
tailor their messages. Visible Vote would provide them with an almost
real-time view into the minds of their voters. What more could
you want come election season?