Maria Yuan (BBA ‘03) envisioned IssueVoter while managing a State Senate campaign in Iowa, where voters are extremely engaged. And everywhere, there’s SO much engagement during elections, yet people are disengaged throughout the year. And that’s when Congress votes on hundreds of proposed laws – a new law that affects your life could pass every day, yet we don’t hear about them, and less than 5% of us contact our reps. Working in the Texas State Capitol as a UT-Austin Senior, Maria saw that most Americans are not connected to their Representatives, although their offices really do count every constituent contact.
However, it’s hard to be engaged because we’re living with an outdated system:
- bills are difficult to research and understand,
- contacting reps still involves snail mail, picking up the phone, or filling out long forms online, and
- petitions have not been effective. To elected officials, petitions are merely a list of names – you may not be one of their voters, and the petition signer has no way to track outcomes.
Politicians’ actions should matter to all Americans because when we vote, we’re hiring our elected officials to represent us, and we pay their salaries with our tax dollars. You would never pay and promote an employee without seeing their work, but that’s essentially what we’re all doing when we vote and then re-elect, and incumbents are reelected over 90% of the time.
To answer this important question, “How can we extend engagement beyond elections, give everyone an equal voice, and keep elected officials accountable?” Maria founded IssueVoter: a nonpartisan platform making civic engagement accessible, efficient, and impactful. You can sign up and use IssueVoter to make your voice count before new laws pass, and track whether your representatives are truly representing you. How it works: You start by choosing issues that matter most to you, like education, healthcare, or the economy. Then, you receive alerts whenever a new bill comes up for a vote that matches your interests. IssueVoter summaries it and provides pros, cons, and related news, and one click sends your opinion directly to your rep. Throughout the year, IssueVoter tracks how often your elected officials vote your way, creating a personalized scorecard, helping you be an informed voter on election day.