Austin entrepreneurs have created an app that will help people participate in the democratic process by register to vote on their phones. Think Voting partnered with Voto Latino to create Voter Pal. This app being created in Austin reflects just how necessary it is, as entrenched Republicans will not allow Texas voter registration to happen online. President Obama called it like it is during SXSW, and sadly we are seeing it in action today.
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Ideally, the app would take a mere 15 seconds for someone to register to vote. All they need to do is grab their ID and smartphone — the app uses the phone’s camera to scan the code on the back of a state ID to populate the fields of the voter registration form. For states that have approved online voter registration (that would be 30, plus the District of Columbia, for those who are counting), that’s it. Done. For Texas, however, users must then wait for a form to be emailed to them, print that form out, sign it, and mail it in.
Jeff Cardenas, co-founder of the app, expresses his frustration with this clunky process: “I would definitely say that the laws that we have in place are a hindrance to innovation,” he said. “We can do just about anything online. You can get a mortgage now with Rocket Mortgage. There’s a lot of other things, and the question we get asked all the time is, ‘Why is it so difficult to participate when the goal is to participate?’”
Ironically, Governor Greg Abbott just penned an op-ed for California-based San Jose Mercury News espousing the virtues of Texas for tech companies. As the Austin Business Journal pointed out, Abbott also forgot to mention that he was responsible for cutting Texas’ Emerging Technology Fund in 2015. The fund awarded more than $200mil in commercialization grants and helped back 142 startups during its 10 years in operation.
Texas had a 21 percent voter turnout rate during this year’s primaries.
Think Voting also has another app specific to Texas that offers the “most comprehensive assembly of information on candidates and propositions on YOUR ballot for any election you are eligible to vote.” For those of you familiar with the League of Women Voters’ Guide, this app has partnered with them to provide all of this information.