Student hopes to make politics a whole lot easier
BY REBECCA SUSMARSKI email@example.com August 5, 2012 7:36PM
Mitch Downey, 27, of Oak Lawn, is working towards a masters degree in instructional technology at Northern Illinois University. He and other students are creating a "civic engagement social network" website called EveryVote.org. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 7, 2012 6:00AM
A Northern Illinois University graduate student has found a way for us to “like” our politicians.
Mitch Downey, 27, plans to create a civic engagement social network called EveryVote.org.
The website, as Downey envisions, will allow people to share their political opinions, connect with their leaders and learn more about elections and legislation. Downey and his team of programmers hope to have EveryVote.org ready for testing before the November elections.
“The goal is to make it easier to keep track of every election that you’re eligible to vote in,” said Downey, of Oak Lawn. “Right now there isn’t a resource online you can go to that would have all of the information for every election … we’re trying to make the one-place stop for learning about all of your elections.”
In addition to listing candidates for local and national elections, the website also will have a vote-matching feature. According to Downey, vote-matching will automatically compare voting records and match a person’s voting stances, similar to a dating website. The site also will include the traditional social network ability to meet others and add profiles for activist groups and political organizations, including branches of local or student government.
Downey conceived the idea for EveryVote.org after he witnessed the overwhelming public objection to the proposed SOPA and PIPA online piracy bills in January. When websites such as Wikipedia shut down for a period of time to protest the bills, many Americans joined in criticizing the legislation. After Congress decided not to pass the bills, Downey realized how greatly the Internet can create awareness and influence the political process.
“I’d like to see more people get more active in government, because that’s a big problem,” Downey said. “We have all these technologies to make it easier than ever to participate. If we don’t participate, then we can’t be disappointed when things don’t work out.”
Downey is working with a team of eight volunteers to set up EveryVote.org. Fellow student Vincent Shramer leads the computer programming effort, while others help with webpage design. The crew is seeking more volunteers to help with researching election data and advertising.
When asked how the group plans to advertise EveryVote.org to young people — a group notorious for its lack of interest in politics — Downey expresses confidence that they will enjoy the site.
“I think young people would naturally use something like this because they’re the most active Internet population,” Downey said. “I think there’s a need to have a place you can go where all of your candidates are on a single page, and I think that’s a strong incentive in itself to make use of the site.”
Any person, candidate or group can make a profile on EveryVote.org. Downey believes that this will allow people to openly express their opinions about any political topic. He hopes this will lead to an improved exchange of ideas among people and terminate fiercely bipartisan politics.
“The goal would be to make it easier and more enjoyable to participate in democracy and to be an active citizen. It’s the principle of this country. It’s what people lived and died to help give us.”
EveryVote.org’s volunteers have applied for nonprofit status and plan to request grant money. To volunteer to help build EveryVote.org, contact Mitch Downey or Vincent Shramer at: