SeePolitical, An App To Educate California's Electorate
In the June 2014 primary election, only 20 percent of eligible Californians were represented at the polls, and even fewer Angelenos, with only 18 percent. USC graduate Nate Kaplan is now seeking to change the pattern of low voter turnout through a series of short, animated videos.
Kaplan is the founder of SeePolitical, a website and soon-to-be mobile application that features informative and unbiased videos that give concise explanations of ballot propositions. Kaplan, who received his master’s degree from the Price School of Public Policy, realized just how many eligible voters are uninformed of important ballot propositions when he was serving as a communications and legislative director for the L.A. City Council in 2008.
“It struck me as odd that there were issues that we were voting on so frequently, and that no one has a clue what yes and no even mean,” Kaplan said.
While working for Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, Kaplan said he and Rosendahl spent hours researching different propositions and deciding how the councilman would vote on the various issues.
“I was doing my work, doing research on ballot propositions with the councilman and it took us a long time to figure out how he was voting on the various issues, and he has been working in politics for over 50 years,” Kaplan said. “If it's hard for him to do this, how should we expect the average person to do this?”
The experience led Kaplan to establish SeePolitical two years ago. Since then, the website has had 15,000 users, and the number is expected to increase sharply after the SeePolitical’s mobile app launch on Wednesday. As Election Day approaches, the app will allow for increased convenience for voters as it allows users to record responses to each proposition so that they can review their opinions while at the polls. Going forward, Kaplan said he plans to expand SeePolitical to include ballot propositions for 10 additional states by next year.
The way Kaplan sees it, the reason that so many Californians, and voters around the country, do not exercise their right to vote is that they are uninformed of policies, and what they mean. SeePolitical’s animated videos aim to clear up the dense language in ballot propositions for a general audience.
“People are very intimated, and they don’t want to vote the wrong way so they don’t show up,” Kaplan said. “Then you get into Latino voters and non-native English speakers who are even less likely to show up because the way things are translated is often done poorly.”
To appeal to these constituencies, Kaplan said that the app will make videos available in Spanish as well as English.
Kaplan attributes much of SeePolitical’s success to its board of directors, which includes Executive Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, Dan Schnur.
“Dan has been a mentor and inspiration to work with,” Kaplan said. “He has been a trusted voice in politics for decades so I run a lot of ideas by him.”
By the next presidential election, Kaplan hopes that SeePolitical will include ballot propositions from around the country, and also include video statements from candidates so voters can understand where each of them stand on different issues.
“We hope that we become the one platform for all things elections and voting,” Kaplan said. “That every issue that we are expected to vote on will have clear concise explanation that will help voter turnout and change the way the politics are discussed.”
Reach Staff Reporter Emily Goldberg here.