Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Can you hear me now Washington? – Part 2, TheVoterEffect Trends

Voters under 30 got involved in the 2008 Presidential election campaign in record numbers. Many became involved in politics for the first time in their lives – many through social media platforms.

Candidate Barack Obama changed politics forever by setting the bar for all future political candidates to strategize and effectively use social media in political campaigns. He proved out the tremendous power of social media if used with a positive, individual interest, networking message strategy.

The greatest impact of Obama’s powerful use of social media is in how social media as a tool is changing the face of politics and policy in general - not just in campaigning. Everyone learned by watching Obama including America’s citizens – the governed – the voters.

Not feeling their values and opinions were being listened to, let along being accurately represented in Congressional voting, American citizens got involved in political discourse in the last two years. Many typically non-political citizens got informed and involved for the first time in their lives. This included citizens of all ages.

Voters are watching politicians closely for action that backs up their words. Voters are organizing and connecting as they gear up for the 2012 elections.

In the post-Obama campaign evolution, the political focus in social media use will not necessarily be on a politician’s campaign message, for no candidate will be able to tightly control their branding and messaging like Obama seemed to successfully do in 2008.

The social media dynamics have evolved and become much more organized by citizens. The citizens are now in reality just as powerful as the politician’s press secretary and media relations today whether politics or the media like it or not.

Even if the media controls the brand and message by only presenting a candidate in a positive light, ignoring any emerging negative factors or a specific voting record, social media does not allow this to go unchallenged as the only message people see or talk about anymore.

Voters are using key social media tactics to overcome the “power of politicians” who ignore their expressed desires in passing unwanted legislation and more taxation. Now social media affords in reality a leveling agent for both political campaigning and debate playing fields in the political realm.

In politics, these leveled playing fields allow for more accessibility, connection, and networking for the everyday, everyman participant; and these leveled fields are much more equal in several ways to a candidate’s political campaign team’s level.

The everyman has the ability to have a political discussion that is person-to-person and person-to-group with an unlimited audience. This is true even if the everyman has no actual access to traditional media or no actual participation in televised candidate debates.

Voters are now more directly engaging politicians by asking specific questions, expressing their opinion on proposed legislation, and tracking Congressional voting records. Voters are now more directly effecting their own futures having seen how public policy and legislation directly affects their economic stability and individual freedoms.

As we introduced in Part 1, TheVoterEffect.com “demonstrates an active presence by voters and connects them to their representatives to work collaboratively as a part of The Effect – the collective voting power creating change.”

We continue our interview with TheVoterEffect CEO Joe Elkjer and United Kingdom based Director of International Impact Kevan Howley:

BKH: What has been the initial reaction of voters overall to TheVoterEffect?
JE: The initial reaction has been very positive. People are very motivated to create change.
KH: On this side of the pond, it has received a very positive reaction from those I have shown and discussed it with. Many want to know when it will be here in Europe. They express it would be great for the European Parliament.

BKH: What has been the initial reaction of politicians overall to TheVoterEffect?
JE: An example of the reaction is this quote by U.S. Senator of Nebraska Ben Nelson, “I like TheVoterEffect, because it uses social media to give citizens a forum to discuss issues and become educated on happenings in Congress. It’s valuable, because it’s innovative and helps constituents give their feedback on issues of importance to them.”

BKH: What political party affiliation seems most engaged on TheVoterEffect?
JE: It really depends on issue to issue and bill to bill. The more people learn the more affiliation is shaped in reality and matters.

BKH: What age group seems most engaged so far on TheVoterEffect?
JE: 25-65

BKH: What states have had the top voter engagement?
JE: Currently they are California, Texas, Ohio, Nebraska, Florida, and Colorado.

BKH: Explain the “Official Scorecard” feature.
JE: The “Official Scorecard” compares how your Congressional representatives have voted on issues compared to how you would vote on the same issue. A percentage of agreement in voting is displayed for you to track.

BKH: Explain the icon links specifically for members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate only.
JE: This is to allow access to our data for Congressional members to have direct feedback from their constituents on TheVoterEffect.

BKH: Do you believe politicians will listen to voters that engage them with TheVoterEffect?
JE: Yes, I believe that 100%. Social media is “the future” of democracy.
KH: I believe many politicians really want to know what the people they represent have to say, but presently there isn’t an efficient means of channeling it directly. They currently have to rely on information from focus groups and opinion polls.

These often miss the mark as they round up issues and don’t allow the voters the chance to express what specifically is important to them. Or politicians must rely on information refracted through biased legacy-media as a benchmark of voter opinion.

BKH: How do you anticipate TheVoterEffect playing into the 2012 elections?
JE: It will have a defining part in the 2012 elections

BKH: Does TheVoterEffect have a direct line to the White House and President Obama?
JE: LOL. I was able to meet with Aneesh Chopra, the first Chief Technology Officer of the United States, to talk about the future of democracy. We discussed the positive impact TheVoterEffect.com. will have.

BKH: What do you hope voters take away from engaging with TheVoterEffect site?
JE: I hope voters realize and understand together we can actively create a positive future for the people and the nation.
KH: I want voters to know they have the ability to feel connected with politicians again. I want voters to know they can have political accountability by being able to compare and track what politicians promise and what they do.

BKH: What are your plans for additional site feature enhancement?
JE: There are many planned enhancements. Of course, I can’t share all the details. TheVoterEffect is a revolution of how the people interact with the government.

BKH: Do you plan on bringing TheVoterEffect to other countries ultimately?
JE: Yes! The next stop is the United Kingdom.
KH: Watch this space!

BKH: How do the needs of other countries differ from the needs in the U.S.?
KH: The UK will be the next country, and I don’t see a whole lot of difference in needs between American voters and elected and those counterparts in Europe. The only difference is in adapting TheVoterEffect engine and presentation to the UK political structures and system.

TheVoterEffect name would remain the same. Beyond that the European Parliament is in our sights. It’s almost totally disconnected from the 500 million European Union population. TheVoterEffect can redress that. Ultimately, I see TheVoterEffect as a global platform within which many different voter constituencies will experience the voter effect.

BKH: Thanks gentlemen. Check out TheVoterEffect.com and follow on Twitter @ TheVoterEffect.

The dynamics have changed, and we are all in a new era in politics. Voters are definitely engaged, and reading proposed legislation isn’t just for some Congressional staffers or Congressional Budget Office employees anymore. Here’s some feedback from a few of TheVoterEffect citizen users:
“Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! I had fun voting and will do more tomorrow.” Dale T. – Wauconda, IL

“I really think TheVoterEffect is a good way to get voters involved, and it sure gives you factual information in order to make a valid decision on issues that concerns us all.” Frank M. – Saratoga, FL

“The Voter Effect is an engaging way to stay on top of everyday political issues, bills, and how legislators are voting. Additionally, it is fun to be able to network with old friends and new friends. TheVoterEffect is a dream for people, like me, who love politics and social networking.” Carol W. - Rapid City, SD
See also: Part 1, What is TheVoterEffect?

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