As the March for Our Lives rally made clear this spring, politicians who ignore the gun control debate may face more challenges from the next generation of voters.
A new website called WeCan.Vote wants to make that generation a political force. The so-called “election site for not-yet voters” features a clickable U.S. map. High school students who want to know learn more about their own congressional representatives’ views on gun control can search by state to view a roster of that place’s congressional representatives alongside an “NRA rating” that grades each official on an A through F scale for their ties to the gun industry.
Visitors are then encouraged to cast a mock vote, signaling whether those leaders should stay “in” or “out” of power. Those results are visualized in an easy-to-read bar graph that highlights what percentage of those voting want the person retained or booted.
The initiative was created by three adults—Danielle Clemons, Frank Garcia, and Giulia Magaldi, all of whom work hold creative posts at top agencies in the advertising world. “The moment we started seeing all the things that these students were doing, we were inspired and we came together and said, ‘How can we help? What can we do? What is something that students do not have right now?'” says Garcia.
The answer for many kids who are still minors is obviously the right to vote. Danielle Clemons says that gave rise to the idea of creating a one-issue site that could both inform and magnify the next generation’s potential power. “We really believe that the youth are leading this change,” she says. “So we didn’t want to tell them, you know, what you should think. We wanted to hear what they think. That’s what the site aims to do.”
To ensure that, the trio has enlisted both recent gun violence survivors and related student-focused nonprofits to guide and share the work, including students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and organizations like Peace First, Students for Gun Legislation, and National March on the NRA. The sensible-about-gun-control grades are provided by Vote Smart, a nonprofit that collects publicly available data on officials, including who has taken money from a major political action committee, the NRA’s Political Victory Fund.
When Fast Company recently scanned the site, many Republican lawmakers with NRA ratings of A or A+ were polling at around an 80% to 90% or higher disapproval rating. On the flip side, several Democrats who earned Fs had between 60% and 80% approval. The site makes clear that only people 18 years or younger should be participating and asks for email verification so people can’t easily stuff the virtual ballots. The effort began in late May and, so far, at least, appears to be gaining supporters slowly. That’s not unexpected as the premise may still encounter a familiar democratic obstacle: it’s tough to rally voter turnout. In total, the site has spurred only low hundreds of students to vote. Obviously, it’ll take droves more to pressure reforms.
The team behind WeCan.Vote remains undaunted, and is becoming more active on social media to spread the word. At the same time, the site is meant to be a resource that grows organically as more kids discover it and feel compelled to make their voices heard. While the design team didn’t disclose exact numbers, they say they’ve inadvertently created the web’s first clearinghouse for this type of information, which has driven plenty of traffic among adults trying to figure out how their own elected officials stack up to others around the country. That means WeCan.Vote may remain a particularly valuable resource for every election cycle.