Stanford students launch app to help constituents connect with Congress

College students around the country greeted Donald Trump’s presidential victory by joining protests, volunteering for political campaigns and registering to vote.

Four Stanford undergrads had a more typical Silicon Valley response: build an app.

The result is Pulse, a new service that helps connect voters more directly with their member of Congress

The non-partisan app, which launched in beta in July, is designed to lower the barrier to entry in politics by allowing registered voters to tell their representative what they think about high-profile legislation.

The app was intended to help combat voter apathy and dissatisfaction with Congress in particular, said Drake Hougo, a 20-year-old junior from Santa Clarita who’s the CEO of the nascent company.

“We saw in 2016 that people didn’t feel heard by their representatives,” Hougo said. “We wanted to use technology to give people a voice.”

Hougo and his fellow developers — Jackson Eilers, Sean O’Bannon and Andrew Quirk — were freshmen at Stanford when Trump notched his surprise win, prompting protest marches and hand-wringing on the idyllic, palm-lined campus, which voted for Hillary Clinton by over 80 percent.

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The app started in a pilot program in mid-July with the campaign of Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin. So far, more than 400 voters have signed up, voting on an average of more than a dozen bills per user.

The third-term congressman — who’s also an avid user of social media apps like Snapchat — says he’s liked how the app lets him get the viewpoints of constituents who might not have the time to show up at his town hall meetings or visit his office.

“We’re trying anything if it can help us connect with more people,” Swalwell said in an interview. “For a lot of people now, social media is their civic town square.”

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Read the full article: https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/10/01/stanford-pulse-app-voter-connect-congress/

Original publish date: 10/1/18

Sign up for Pulse Voter at https://pulsevoter.com/