Monday, September 26, 2022

Amazing Apps: ActiVote

ActiVote is a first-of-its kind nonpartisan app that empowers U.S. citizens to vote. Users can access information about local, statewide, and national elections, candidates, public policy, and legislation all in one place. ActiVote also enables users to compare their beliefs to political candidates’ stances by answering daily questions on major political issues.

ActiVote was founded in 2019 by Victor Allis, Sara Gifford, and Paul-Erik Rauè. This team of entrepreneurs met at Quintiq, a supply-chain software-development company, more than 10 years ago. Upon selling that company, they turned their attention to serving the social good.

After conducting research, they discovered many Americans don’t vote because they don’t know how to navigate our current elections system or find reliable information about candidates. So Allis, Gifford, and Rauè set out to put every election in the palm of people’s hands. Using their tech talents, they developed ActiVote – an app that provides factual, unbiased information to make voting more accessible and build a strong democracy.

I had a chance to learn more in this interview.

When I was growing up my parents voted at my elementary school. Each time they would go to vote, they would take us with them to the gym and we would stand in line and go to the polls together. I remember being amazed that the place that I played Dodgeball or Tag was also a place that could be so important. Family lore also says that one year I was so upset about being late to 1st grade that I cried the whole time. My parent's message was "There are a few things that are more important than being on time for school, and voting is one of them." Kids are impressionable and you can use that to turn them into life long voters!

How does ActiVote help prepare young adults for being involved in the voting process?
While the ActiVote tool is primarily for voting age adults, teenagers can also engage with the app by setting themselves up as a voter at their home address. They can explore elections, learn about policy, see who represents their family and more. Kids have an amazing power that they do not always realize. If a child comes home and starts talking to their parents about voting. Asking questions. Being engaged. That just might have as a side effect that their parents become more engaged. Parents can teach model civic behavior for their children, but children can also bring civic behavior home to their parents by being well informed future voters.

Why is it important for kids to learn about the voting process from an early age?
Like many things, voting is a habit. We teach kids how to brush their teeth everyday by making it important and practicing that skill with them. Research shows that voting is exactly the same. The "super voters" (as campaigns call them) vote all of the time because they are in the habit of voting and therefore never miss an election. The earlier we teach our kids about voting, the more likely that it becomes part of their lifelong habits.

How can families make civic engagement interesting for kids?
First and foremost families can make voting a family activity. Take your kids to the polls and talk to them in an age appropriate way about what you are doing and more importantly why you are doing it. For young kids, get them a matching iVoted sticker that you get after voting and have them wear it with pride. As your kids get older ensure that you talk about the issues you are voting on and why they matter to you. Talk about how those issues impact your kids. This can be incredibly effective when talking about school budgets and school board elections as that is a connection that kids can easily make to their daily lives.

When I was a kid our town was building a new playground in the public park. Of course they had to raise money, hire a team and create a design. One of the things that my town did was to have one kid from each class in the elementary school be part of the committee that decided what they wanted in a playground. Kids from each K-6 class got to talk about the pros and cons of different play structures and then the kids voted. The architect then took those ideas and designed a democratically designed playground! Civic behavior can be found in many places!

“Make democracy a part of your household,” says Sara Gifford, co-founder of ActiVote. “Find moments where you can vote on things that include your children. Perhaps it’s the dinner menu or which park you go to. Finding small moments for your kids to vote will teach them the power of their opinion early.”

Sara Gifford is co-founder and COO of ActiVote, a nonpartisan app that empowers citizens to vote and strengthens democracy. Having worked in the tech industry for twenty years, she is an expert in software development and management. Gifford started off as a Software Developer for HPTi, a Technology Consulting company. In 2006, she joined Quintiq, a supply-chain software-development company, as Business Consultant and was promoted to General Manager of North America. In that role, she expanded the company’s North American operations team, increased sales, brought in top talent, and trained emerging leaders in the company. She became a board member and then Chief Solutions Officer. After Quintiq was sold in 2017, Gifford and her fellow co-founders turned to using their tech talents for social good. That’s how ActiVote was born. Gifford holds a BS in computer engineering from Bucknell University and an MS in software engineering from American University.

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