If you’ve always wanted to ask a political candidate a question but are too busy to make it to a town hall or a Reddit AMA, there’s a new tool just for you.
Change.org, a popular online petition site, launched a new site on Thursday focused on politics. Change Politics — at ChangePolitics.org — is designed to help voters sort through the noise when deciding who or what to vote for in upcoming elections.
The mobile-web app and desktop site crowdsources questions for politicians. Anyone can submit a question, then people vote for the best. The most popular queries are passed on to politicians. Early questions include “How will you fix the $ 18 trillion national debt?” and “What is your plan to reduce gun violence in America?”
Some big name politicians have already committed to answering the most voted-for questions, including Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Ben Carlson.
Change Politics also collects and organizes endorsements from influential people and organizations in one place. The final product is a personalized ballot guide that citizens can reference in the voting booth.
“We want to flip the tables of control by putting citizens back in the centers of campaigns,” said Ben Rattray, founder and CEO of Change.org.
For now the project is focused on the 2016 presidential election, but it will expand to state and local elections over the next year. Rattray says he’s especially excited to use it for small elections, as there is often a limited amount of information about local candidates.
Launched in 2007, Change.org lets people post public petitions directed at anyone from foreign governments to major corporations. The petitions can rack up hundreds of thousands of “signatures” but are not legally binding. However, the pressure from a petition going viral online frequently leads to real responses.
In 2014, Change.org raised $ 25 million from a group of well-known tech titans including Bill Gates, Richard Branson, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and Twitter co-founder Evan Williams.
The for-profit company is registered as a B Corporation, a classification that indicates it prioritizes social responsibility.
“One of the biggest challenges with political content online is that it descends into unproductive conversations,” said Rattray. Change Politics is not going to be another forum for debate, said Rattray, but a place to access useful information needed to make a decision.
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