MANCHESTER, NH – We are a week away from the municipal elections, and one of the biggest concerns for candidates is voter apathy.
You’d think with all these smart phones and social media connections, someone would create a way to generate election buzz, utilizing peer pressure and an easy-to-use app.
Actually it’s arrived: Enter Brigade, a tech start-up founded in 2014 to tackle the problem of declining citizen power and engagement, which has created a Ballot Guide app being piloted in only two U.S. cities – here in Manchester, and San Franciso – to give the voting public a way to declare their beliefs, organize with others, and take action to shape the policies affecting their lives.
Users download the app and begin answering questions about issues of local and national importance, which will register in the app and begin to connect you with like-minded voters in your area.
Once you have signed up for a free profile, you can scan Brigade’s archive to find public votes on issues that interest you. Each issue is phrased in a way that users can agree or disagree with it, or choose unsure. Voting tallies are displayed as numbers and graphs. There is also a page where you and other users can write opinions about the issue. Users on this part of the app can, not surprisingly, become highly charged.
Brigade users can also submit questions for others to vote on. And because the app is a social network, you can build a network of friends in it, though unfortunately, the app makes it seem a little as if friends are only those other users who agree with your opinions. If nothing else, Brigade is a great way to engage in political debate and gauge what issues people are talking about.
“Technology has made many aspects of our lives easier and more fulfilling, yet political engagement is more difficult and less satisfying than ever before. It doesn’t have to be that way,” says Matt Mahan, Brigade co-founder and CEO. “Together, we can begin to restore citizens’ rightful place at the center of our democracy and there’s no better place to start than in our local communities. We’re eager for voters in Manchester to use our Ballot Guide and the other tools we’ll be rolling out in the months to come.”
Brigade iOS and Android users in Manchester can find out what’s on their ballot, unlock personalized voting recommendations, pledge their votes to specific candidates and initiatives, and recruit friends to join them in committing to vote for politicians and policies they believe will improve their city.
“When users fill out their ballot cards, we’ll match them to aligned local organizations that make candidate and issue endorsements. This will give them, if needed, a higher degree of confidence in their selections,” said Andrew Noyes, vice president of communications for Bridgade.
The app is endorsed by Emily’s List, Liberty Ballot, Manchester Democratic Party, Manchester Republican Committee, NH Building and Construction Trades Council and the New Hampshire Young Republicans.
Another added feature is that members of the Brigade community in Manchester are able to share their completed ballot cards or vote pledges for specific candidates or issues via social media, SMS and email to incentivize others to do their civic duty in a fun and engaging new way. Other components of the Ballot Guide include an Election Day countdown clock and a polling place locator.
Click here to check out Brigade’s real-time vote pledge results for Manchester so far.
“Ultimately this local experiment will inform our strategy for building robust and engaging election tools in more cities and states ahead of the 2016 election,” said Noyes.
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