In the last US Presidential Election, the turnout for young voters (which is typically defined as ages 18 - 29) was quite large. When compared to local elections, the number of young voters who turn up may be surprising to some people. For example, in mayoral elections certain cities, such as Philadelphia, Dallas, Detroit, and Las Vegas, have less than 20% turnout with young voters.
There could be a number of reasons why young voter turnout is poor in local elections. Take, for example, Involved Co-Founder and CEO Jacob Dansey’s experience as a young voter from Northern Virginia.
“I was a senior in high school, and I started to become discouraged with politics, especially with the voting process in local elections,” Dansey remembered. “I wasn’t exactly politically active because I wasn’t aware of the issues, and I didn’t even know who my state reps were.”
Dansey had an idea to create some form of technology that would allow government representatives to connect with their constituents, in a way that would appeal to the average person. Throughout the years, Dansey kept this idea in his head with no set plan of action, until he attended Boston University and switched to computer engineering his junior year to make this idea a reality. During his time at BU, Dansey met with Involved’s future Co-Founder and Head of Marketing, Caleb McDermott.
“Jacob and I were actually roommates our freshman year,” McDermott said. “Throughout college, I ran programs that were based around building communities. Jacob told me about his idea for a company and I became interested. I felt like I could provide a role creatively and introduce a different approach to getting the word out.”
The prototype version of Involved was developed in 2016 and, according to Dansey, it was “bad.”
“It barely worked,” Dansey said with a chuckle. “However, it gave me the validation to take this more seriously, and then it started to pick up steam after we brought on our other technical co-founder, John Knollmeyer, and started from scratch.”
The three BU students were accepted into the school’s BUzz Labs, a student-led startup accelerator. The company was able to move further into developing a new platform, complete with an interactive UI designed for voters of all ages, and they were awarded a grant of $10K to continue their venture.
The platform we see today is a micro-polling platform for government representatives to post questions that get sent out to their constituents. A user will sign up on the platform by giving their address anonymously. This is important because Involved will then connect the user with the representatives for that area and constituents can voice their opinion privately.
From there, a constituent can then give input in response to questions that are on their representative’s mind with just a click, either through email or the mobile app. Both Dansey and McDermott wanted to avoid being compared to social media, due to social media’s lack of user privacy and analytics.
“We’re focused on providing an administrative tool for representatives,” Dansey said. “We’ve been working closely with town managers, state reps and community organizations to really get to know both sides of our customer base.”
On the other side of the political fence, a state representative can view and analyze polling data within their region. A rep can get a better look on where voting occurs, and discover locations that may need to receive attention.
The company ran a pilot program with Massachusetts State Representatives Elizabeth Malia, Randy Hunt, and James Cantwell and State Senator Brownsberger, and almost 100 constituents in those regions, which served as a major test for the platform’s communication features. It proved to be successful, and the three co-founders started rolling out Involved to other small towns in the Bay State. The platform is currently being tested in several Massachusetts towns including Chelsea, Concord, and Georgetown.
Recently, Involved has raised capital for its first seed round, in what the co-founders called a “friends and family” round through Netcapital.
Getting to speak with a government representative and have your voice heard by someone who can make a difference is something that apathetic young voters, like how Dansey used to be, would think is too good to be true.
One could say the company’s platform gets users more involved with politics.