AOA Startup Grant 2018


Startups2016 Electorate

Project: Electorate, a website and app to help people become informed voters by making it easy to find all their candidates and elections and giving social context to these elections through existing social networks.

Who: Alex Muro

Short bio
My name is Alex Muro. I've lived in Albany for 10 years after graduating from University at Albany in 2006 with a degree in computer science . I am a founding member of the B3nson Recoding Company, a local arts collective. I wrote music / played and traveled with Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned, we showcased at the SXSW music festival three times and were featured on NPR's All Things Considered. I now play in a band called The Neighborhood of Make Believe (shoutout: we are playing Larkfest, best music lineup since '09). I was also the co-director of the Restoration Festival for five years. I currently work in the Albany Visualization and Informatics Lab at the University of Albany, which I helped to start, managing a team of developers to build data analysis and visualization platforms that help decision makers and researchers in transportation, planning and economics.

I came to this project through a pivot of a project to make campaign management tools for people running for office that I had started with some of my friends who work in politics in Albany.

A description of the proposed project
I am building a website and app to help people become informed voters by making it easy to find all their candidates and elections and giving social context to these elections through existing social networks.

When you sign up it automatically syncs to your voter registration record and tells you who your representatives are and what elections you can vote in. You can endorse candidates in those elections and see who your friends have endorsed.

The platform already exists in beta, people are welcome to check it out: Electorate. There is still a lot of work and we'd love feedback.

Here is a video we did for a hackathon last April. That interface is much different now, but the central ideas are still the same.

I have personally gone into the voting booth too many times and found races on the ballot where I had no information about candidates. This is especially a problem for local elections, school board elections and primaries which don't get very much media attention. This is a real problem because these elections have a greater impact on your day-to-day life than national elections that are covered at great length in the media.

Additionally, this is a really fun and interesting technical challenge that hasn't been done yet and could have a huge impact on elections.

How would the grant money help?
Honestly, I am more excited about introducing this project to the All Over Albany community, who in my reading are a group who care about civic participation and local government more than most. The best thing I could get out of being involved in this competition is community engagement and feedback in the project which still has a long way to go before it lives up to its potential.

That being said, I should get the funding because there isn't much time until this year's election season and the more I can focus on this project between now and November 9 (and even September 13), the more impact it can have on this year's elections.

There are a number of costs associated with running the business for cloud hosting and services that I currently pay for out of pocket. However I'd probably use this money for two things. The first would be to help me set up some experiments in finding the best way for reaching voters using web advertising. The second would be to use it a good chunk of it to pay a developer to spend some time helping me on the platform.

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Previous application: Collar City Candle

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