The town hall is always open: Voters connect with their elected officials at MyMaryland website
If we want our elected officials to represent us, we have to be informed and engaged — yet 90 percent of us never contact our representatives. A website called MyMaryland.com is changing that dynamic by making it easy for verified Maryland voters to learn about issues, talk to their representatives and meet fellow voters in their districts. The program uses the Internet to empowers regular people to make their voices heard and reduce the influence of money in politics.
In this video, MyMaryland President Ben Simon, who is also the founder, explains how the website promotes civic engagement and transparency by enabling a dialogue between voters and officials. MyMaryland leverages the Internet to bridge the distance between elected officials and those they represent.
Voters create an account and enter their voting address at MyMaryland.com. Once they're confirmed as voters in a particular district, they're linked to an online town hall where they can see all of their officials' most important information, such as sponsored bills, recent votes and campaign finance information.
"What I think we're going to be able to do for the first time ever is to actually bring the elected officials to the table by building a value to them, based on access to their verified voters," says Simon. "So they can message their voters directly, they can create a poll question to get their feedback in real time, and then their voters can see upcoming bills and vote on them to advise their representatives how they want them to vote."
MyMaryland is one of 10 finalists in the Points of Light and Village Capital Civic Accelerator program, which provides funding, mentorship, entrepreneurial eduction, peer support and brand awareness to promising civic ventures. Two startups will be selected by their peers to receive an additional $50,000 investment.
My name is Ben Simon, and I am the Founder and President, of mymaryland.net. So I basically asked myself what would democracy look like if it worked really well? And most political scientists can agree that the core problem in our democracy right now, is the tremendous distance between elected officials and the people they represent. So what mymaryland.net does is leverage the internet to bridge that space.
The way the site works is any Maryland resident can create an account. Enter in their voting address. We run that through the Maryland voter file to confirm them as registered voters in their district, and then link them to an online town hall, for each of their state and federal officials. So pretty much every elected official in Maryland has their own online town hall going on 24/7, where the only voices are them and their verified voters.
The core goal is to boost civic engagement, as well as elevating accountability and transparency in government. What I think we're going to be able to do for the first time ever, is to actually bring the elected officials to the table, by building in value to them, based on access to their verified voters. So they can message their voters directly. They can create a poll question to gather feedback in real time, and then their voters can see upcoming bills, and vote on them to advise their representatives how they want them to vote.
So we've already had our first paying customer. That's the University of Maryland College Park. We've got an interest from Montgomery County, where I live. We think it can absolutely transform representative democracy.