Throughout the United States, the past few years have been tumultuous, to say the least. Many citizens around the country have stepped up and made it a priority to have their voices heard through numerous avenues. Certain cities and states voted like never before in the previous election, and protests and demonstrations became a regular occurrence throughout the country. While voting according to our values and protesting are two main ways to speak up, you can also make a statement with your wallet. Money and politics have a longstanding relationship that you, as a consumer, affect with your purchasing decisions. Making voters and consumers more aware of where various candidates stand is the ultimate purpose of civic-tech nonprofit VotingSmarter, Inc.
Founded by Terry Crandall, VotingSmarter, Inc. researched why political leaders, corporations, and voters do what they do. The team discovered that many voters vote party line not because they agree 100% with one party over another, but because it’s a far easier shortcut in a busy world versus spending hours on research. To give power back to the electorate, VotingSmarter decided to do the heavy lifting for the everyday voter. It can take a lot of time and energy to understand the nuances of every issue, and with the advent of news manipulation, it can be hard to know who to trust. This makes it difficult for those stepping into the voting booth.
The power of a vote was the crux of VotingSmarter when it was created. It began as a website that covered the 2020 presidential primaries, spearheaded by 20 volunteer economics students. This team of volunteers spent thousands of hours researching candidates to understand and document where they stood on certain issues. Eventually, the team grew to 40+ people, which gave them the bandwidth to release a “dating app for elections.” This app matched voters to candidates for House, Senate, Governor, and President within 5 minutes. The app was ultimately a success, matching more than 3,000 voters to the candidate that fit best with them. The team hopes to do more in the coming national general election.
VotingSmarter just launched a browser extension to match shoppers with over 100 of the biggest online brands. The extension, equipped with countless hours of research, allows you to compare different brands on how their value system aligns with yours. VotingSmarter helps you understand how your preferred brands deal with issues such as climate change, global trade, immigration, healthcare, and more. The team itself is very diverse politically, socioeconomically, racially, by gender, and more. That ensures the information you get is unbiased and helpful.
The idea is that the more money spent on a particular brand, the more profitable it becomes. That means that if everyone with contrary values to the brand stopped shopping with it, the company will not have enough to spend pushing its agenda. The consumers can then take their business to brands with similar values and help fund the causes they believe in, changing the world by their purchasing decisions.