A UCSB alumnus launched the website Votence earlier this month to provide a public forum for political discussion and information.
The site operates a database with political records, including personal biographies for senators and congress members and recent news related to the federal government. Founder Timothy Montague aims to expand Votence’s data and services to increase political participation across the nation.
According to Montague, the website promotes public knowledge and input in governmental affairs.
“The basic idea is that, while we do have some power to vote on some issues like presidential elections and propositions, I feel that there is a lot of information — legislation — that is voted upon by our elected officials that we never get to look at,” Montague said. “Through Votence, I would like to allow users to vote on those issues.”
Montague said the database capitalizes on the Internet’s ability to disseminate information throughout a broad spectrum of users.
“I believe that, as a society, we can be a lot more interactive than we used to on voting issues,” Montague said. “I am not saying get rid of systems we already have; I am saying we can add to this through technology.”
According to Votence head of voter relations, Samuel Gerner, the website allows individuals to research political activity rather than rely on traditional news sources.
“I really do not like how much power media has in influencing peoples’ voting decisions,” Gerner said. “I just want people to be able to get plugged in, be educated and become really strong advocates of things they believe in.”
Gerner said Votence aims to keep uninformed voting from harming the political process.
“Voting out of ignorance is worse than not voting at all,” Gerner said. “When people vote out of ignorance, they could be voting for the wrong thing without being aware.”
Additionally, Montague said Votence could potentially provide an online voting service.
“I know a lot of people use absentee ballots and I think the next logical step would be to vote from your mobile phone or online,” Montague said. “I would like to bring quite a few ideas together to build a community of voters to allow them to interact with politicians who are also part of that community.”
Second-year political science major Lily Kley said she thinks the online database could help strengthen relations between government officials and their constituents.
“I think it’s a great idea to harness technology by creating a platform which makes information easier to access and fosters political transparency,” Kley said. “It can be difficult keeping up with your senator or representatives, so I personally would take advantage of it and hope others would as well to become more involved.”
Montague said the project is still in its developmental stages.
“I do not think it has met its maturity stage yet, and that is what I am doing now by reaching out to people because I cannot do this alone,” Montague said.
The upcoming presidential election will be an opportunity to demonstrate Votence’s ability to increase public participation in government affairs, Gerner said.
“A year from now will be during the election time,” Gerner said. “I want to see Votence making a strong impact on uniting people … having an impact on political process and go beyond falling beyond party lines. I would like to see it as an avenue for moving forward in the democratic voting process.”