Raise Your Voice wants to help citizens better engage with legislators

Raise Your VoiceRaise Your Voice founder Dan Busse shares how his new civic venture wants to change the way citizens and legislators engage with one another.

Give us the 140-character elevator pitch.

We are a tool, placed in online news and blogs, that promotes open dialogue between citizens and legislators in response to current issues.

What problem does Raise Your Voice solve for government?

By enabling average people to quickly and easily voice their opinions to their elected officials – from the news, when they’re most inspired – officials get a larger sampling and a better, unfiltered understanding of how their constituents feel.

What’s the story behind starting Raise Your Voice?

I conceived Raise Your Voice during the debates on health care reform. As an Emergency Physician, I grew increasingly frustrated watching the town hall meetings, well meaning attempts at open dialogue, were hijacked by special interests and degenerated into shouting matches. It became clear to me that there were too many layers – pundits, interest groups, and media, between people and their elected officials, so I designed Raise Your Voice to give the average citizen direct and easy access. I placed it in online news, because that’s where people are most inspired to act. We got some small funding and launched in November 2011.

What are its key features?

Our main attribute is that, in being placed in online news and blogs, we make ourselves available when people are the most inspired about current issues (who hasn’t yelled at the news?).

Other key features include:

  • an address book that includes federal, state, local, and county officials (since all politics is local)
  • a “widget configurator” that allows people to generate and download the javascript code to place our button on their sites
  • the ability to share their communications throughout their social networks
  • we are working on integrating an advocacy platform, so people writing about an issue can see other groups working in their area (i.e. I write about logging and the spotted owl then see links to the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society sites)
  • we have a multitude of features we are working on to make interaction easier; all aimed at opening up government.

What are the costs, pricing plans?

We are free.

How can those interested connect with you?

Voter ID and Civic Innovation

Since 2008, there has been a wave of voting law changes that impose barriers to the ballot box. Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a veteran of “Bloody Sunday,” called the new laws “the most concerted effort to restrict the right to vote since before the Voting Rights Act.”

The right to vote is being chiseled away by voter ID laws that require voters to show government-issued photo ID in order to vote.

Cost of Freedom Project Logo

In December, the Department of Justice blocked South Carolina’s voter ID law on the grounds it would make it harder for minorities to vote in violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Mississippi and Texas voting ID laws also must be pre-cleared but Texas is not waiting. The Lone Star State filed a federal lawsuit in an effort to speed up a decision.

Strict photo ID requirements will be in place in at least five states – Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Tennessee and Wisconsin — In November. With Election Day less than nine months away, voters without an official photo ID cannot wait for the challenges to play out at the Justice Department and in the courts.

In Wisconsin, for instance, voters must navigate “The 4 Proofs.”

I am a founding member of the Election Protection Coalition. Still, looking at the infographic makes my head hurt. More worrisome, it discourages voters from completing the application process. So I presented the problem of TMI (read: disenfranchisement by design) at Random Hacks of Kindness and the Hackathon for Social Good. Citizen programmers developed solutions to quickly provide voters with information on how to get a voter ID.

During Social Week Washington, DC, I gave a demo of the Cost of Freedom web-based app developed by Kin Lane, API Evangelist for CityGrid.

Users in Wisconsin can forget about “The 4 Proofs.” Instead, in four clicks or less, they will be able to access information about the state’s voter ID requirements, how to obtain a certified copy of their birth certificate (the document that’s typically produced to establish one’s identity), and the location, hours and directions to the Office of Vital Records using public transit.

I also gave a live demo of the Cost of Freedom text-based app developed by Jack Aboutboul, Twilio’s API Evangelist. Twilio is making an in-contribution of text message services to promote voter education.

To commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we plan to launch the Cost of Freedom App on April 4, 2012.

I will post regular updates about the Cost of Freedom Project and other initiatives that are using civic innovation to protect the right to vote. The conversation about voter ID also gives us an opportunity to raise awareness about disruptive technologies in the public sector beyond election administration.

For more information, please visit us at Facebook.com/CostofFreedom. You can sign up to receive notice when the Cost of Freedom App is launched. Continue reading

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PageFreezer

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Government websites, in accordance with the Public Records Law, are considered an official government publication. Information on these sites influences decisions of citizens and businesses. Governments can be held accountable for the information they publish on the web. Tracking changes on Websites with PageFreezer offers governments trusted, non-refutable evidence in case of liability claims.

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Get the 311 with SeeClickFix

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