We all know how important it is to vote. After all, it takes two to dance the democracy tango, and by two, I mean the electorate and the individuals who represent them. And yet, millions of Americans simply aren’t voting. To be fair, keeping abreast of the all the issues, registering, and just getting to the polls can feel like a job in and of itself — a full-time one in these wild political times. But since this is the 21st century, there’s an app for that. It’s called VoteWithMe, and as the name suggests, it’s the perfect way to get friends and family on the political sidelines back in the game and into the voting booth.
VoteWithMe was spearheaded by former Google executive and Obama appointed Administrator of the United States Digital Service Mikey Dickerson. Dickerson and a team of Silicon Valley executives turned White House employees joined President Obama on his mission to fix citizen-facing technology, and the fruits of their labors have finally arrived. For the Instagram-or-it-didn’t-happen generation, this is big news. VoteWithMe makes it easier than ever to be an engaged citizen by providing easy access to public voter history and an election tracker that connects you to the issues you care most about. It even helps you nudge your peers about election dates. Believe it or not, your encouragement matters almost as much as voting yourself. With VoteWithMe, you can peruse the voting history of your contacts, including those living in hotly contested districts, and reach out through text and encourage them to vote.
In an age where user data is treated like a hot commodity, and often with questionable and even malicious intentions, it’s important to differentiate how VoteWithMe uses your data. Here’s how it works.
With your permission, VoteWithMe’s registered nonprofit organization, The New Data Project, which also built the app, safely and securely syncs your mobile phone’s contacts with relevant voter files and shows you which friends need a swift digital nudge to go out to vote. Then, it’s on you to contact those friends. VoteWithMe will never contact anyone on your behalf or sell information to anyone. It only looks at users’ contacts when given explicit permission to do so. Then, the app matches those contacts to public voter records. Your information is never sold and VoteWithMe only shows you data that is already publicly available.
We all have that friend who loves to complain and debate about the current state of affairs but doesn’t actually vote to change them. Maybe that friend is you. Maybe you’ve lost a little bit of faith in the system, but as Dickerson explains, “If you don’t vote, you’re invisible to any representative system of government. That’s how for the past 40 years, Congress has represented less than 40% of Americans.”
While our electoral system may have its flaws, futilist thinking only adds insult to injury. Your vote matters, and it matters even more in numbers, which is exactly why it’s so important to encourage and empower your more apathetic or simply overwhelmed peers to vote, too. If ever a good kind of peer pressure existed, this is it. “In any context, social norms and pressures are a powerful motivator that shapes behavior. We all wear pants every day because it’s a social norm. We would like voting to be like wearing pants,” Dickerson said. And it’s not too late to change the norms and flip the script. Nonpartisan online newsletter the Cook Political Report recently rated over 100 house races as competitive, with only 23 needing to flip from red to blue to secure a Democratic House majority.
To carry Dickerson’s pants metaphor a step further, an interpersonal and issue-focused tool is just what young people need to feel encouraged to get dressed, so to speak. According to Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell, developmental psychologist and author of Tomorrow’s Change Makers: Reclaiming the Power of Citizenship for New Generation,“Millennials are open-minded and interested in social issues. They use their hearts, not just their minds when they vote. Like young generations before them, millennials want to change the status quo.” Price-Mitchell predicts an app like VoteWithMe will provide a valuable new tool for young changemakers. By leveraging both the power of community and technology, VoteWithMe personalizes and simplifies what can feel like a sterile and convoluted process. In short, it makes staying engaged user-friendly.
With the midterms fast approaching, now is the perfect time to flex our democratic muscles. For the first time in history, women and people of color outnumber white men as Democratic House nominees and could potentially flip the house. But in order to make history, you have to vote. If, like most millennials, you want things like equal pay, women’s rights and a living wage, you have to vote. And if you don’t know where to go or how to get going, downloading VoteWithMe is a great start.