The 2020 election season was one like no other. From the many battleground states flipping from red to blue to the historic record voter turnout across the country (and the infamous four long days in which it all transpired), the uniqueness of this past election transcends any in U.S. history.
For voters, the longstanding chatter surrounding the presidential race may have made their decision easier in choosing a candidate. On the other hand, races that received less attention, such as the Senate, House of Representatives or Public Service Commissioner races, may have been more difficult in deciding who to cast a vote for.
Oftentimes, it can be challenging to find accurate, unbiased info on candidates when researching their platforms. We’re told to make our voices be heard through voting, but how can we achieve that if we’re not receiving the correct information on various candidates?
Because of these challenges, I chatted with the founders of a new political app called Swing Campaign, a nonpartisan platform that makes vetted and reliable information readily available on all things politics.
With a country on edge, an economy in turmoil and a looming presidential election, one major reason inspired the two recent Cornell University graduates, Sterling Kelly and Ian Starnes, to create the app last spring: they were disappointed in the government’s response to COVID-19.
“For me, it came down to the pandemic,” Kelly explained.
Filled with confusion, panic and miscommunication from politicians, the early stages of COVID-19 took a toll on virtually every American. This period was especially distressing for Kelly, who is immunocompromised. These circumstances motivated him and Starnes to take action. Not only were they determined to vote for officials who they felt would handle the pandemic better, but they also wanted to help others easily learn about officials.
“So often we are asked to use our voice and our vote to get what we want to happen, but we never actually know who the best person is to use it for,” he continued.
After careful thinking, the two concluded that they should create an app named Swing Campaign. Sourced by congress.gov, this app would offer dependable information on political matters that affect users, such as locating their local elected officials, informing them of recently passed bills and sharing voting instructions.
“We’re trying to create more accountability between constituents and their representatives,” Starnes expressed. “We try to make sure that the representatives do what the people actually want them to do.”
Passionate about their idea, the pair went straight to work. Whereas some more minor difficulties and learning curves were faced while developing the app, the biggest challenge was realizing that they needed help and a team behind them.
“It sounds kind of weird, but COVID kind of helped us out,” Kelly remarked.
As the world was put on pause and many new graduates’ job offers and internships became compromised, the two found a way to connect those facing these circumstances to their app’s production.
“We were able to reach out to really talented people and have them help out. It’s worked out pretty great in that sense and figuring out some things we were lacking in ourselves and how to identify that in other people,” he continued.
Starnes added, “It’s great to get a lot of different perspectives from people on the team to make sure we don’t input any of our own biases.”
Their hard work and contributions from their team members paid off in the end. Now launched and on full-display, I tried the app out myself!
When I first downloaded the app, a bright purple and white “Welcome to Swing” signup page popped up on my screen. A page titled “Tell us what you care about” followed, enabling me to choose up to five topics that I’m most interested in staying updated on, like civil rights, public services or the environment.
After that, I was asked to enter my zip code, and this generated all of my local, state and federal politicians, completing the setup!
The middle icon along the bottom row titled “Representatives” presents a list of House members and senators from my state. This page contains many features, including the option to read up on a politician’s legislative voting history, express approval or disapproval concerning a politician’s actions and even contact politicians directly through the app.
Starnes stresses that these features serve as a “call to action of giving your feedback to the representatives so that they know what their constituents think.”
The “Pulse” tab, another interesting aspect of the app, curates your newsfeed to the latest bills, laws and news that are most relevant to your interests chosen during setup. The “Election” tab is the perfect place to receive guidance on voting. You can check your voter registration, request an absentee ballot and conveniently find your polling place.
Aside from receiving information, Swing Campaign is also a platform that allows you to establish your presence and connect with others! You’re able to add friends, share posts about the latest political developments and build your profile.
From the local level to the federal level, politics is something that affects us all. I’ve seen the good that it has produced, but I’ve also seen the bad. Because of this, I regularly work to stay informed of what’s happening around me.
I’ve had my fair share of times struggling to uncover what’s true and what is not, but the consolidated information that Swing Campaign offers has made it much more convenient in locating what I need to know. As I continue to exercise my right to vote, this platform remains beneficial in helping me make informed decisions.