PollVault and BeePolitical bring social media savvy to the political app

An example of a ballot from PollVault.
An example of a ballot from PollVault.

Time to vote? There's an app for that – almost. Two new start-ups are hoping to leverage your social networks and their political savvy to educate the electorate and increase voter turnout.

BeePolitical seeks to break down the dense, often confusing language of state ballot propositions. The company, co-founded by a staffer to Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, uses two-minute cartoons narrated by an animated bee – and voiced by actor Eric Roberts – to explain what a yes vote and no vote would mean on statewide ballot propositions.

The company released a widget and relaunched its website just in time for the June 5 primary. By November, its founders say, BeePolitical hopes to have a smartphone app that will allow users to record their votes and share them on social networks.

Co-founders Nate Kaplan and Jared Levy research the ballot propositions, interviewing proponents and opponents of each issue and conducting their own independent analysis.

"We want to be as unbiased as humanly possible," Kaplan says. "We don't want to include charged language or any hyperbole in either direction."

BeePolitical will also include links to the campaigns supporting and opposing the propositions, as well as a link to the Secretary of State's website.

Common Cause has worked with BeePolitical to ensure the group is providing unbiased information that is beyond what voters may already find in the state's guide.

"So many people get information, whether it's on causes or facts, from webinars or PSAs and they don't spend the extra three minutes to actually read something," said Anjuli Kronheim, an organizer with Common Cause.

"It will just add to the level of engagement of where people are at so that's why I think it's a valuable tool."

Meanwhile, up in the Bay area, PollVault is hoping voters use their Facebook accounts to solicit voting advice from organizations and individuals they trust, and to share their voting choice with a group of followers that they select.

The company provides users with their specific ballot based on their address and party preference. Users then select 10 'advisers' whose opinions and votes they want to read.

Background information about ballot propositions is provided by the Secretary of State's office. Candidates can customize pages with the information they want to share with voters.

Founder Nolan Love hopes PollVault eventually becomes voters' one-stop shop for election information. To avoid creating an echo chamber, users will be encouraged to include alternate viewpoints in their roster of voters.

By doing so, "you'll have an enriched experience," Love said. "People still need to take their vitamins."

Campaigns and candidates will eventually be able to target swing voters via ads on the site. Love refers to them as "a couple of surprise guests who speak up."

PollVault hopes to be in all 50 states in time for the November election.