Stanford MBA student Henry Lippincott wants to make voting preparation as easy as online shopping. If you don't have time to wade through all the campaign flyers, robocalls, and blogposts about candidates, you can type in your zip code at his website, www.votebox2012.com, to get guidance on some of your state and federal choices. Still in development, VoteBox is a for-profit startup that Lippincott devised while working between classes in Stanford GSB' new Venture Studio. Here is an edited interview with him.
Who is VoteBox for?
VoteBox was built especially for the millions of Americans who wish they had more time to make more informed voting decisions, but don't. Currently, voters must go to a variety of different sources to verify voter registration, register to vote, identify which elections to vote in, and locate information on candidates. VoteBox has condensed this into a manageable step-by-step process. Voters can compare candidates, donate to campaigns, and place candidates in their online shopping carts. They can't submit their votes online at VoteBox, but it helps them through the hard part — making their decisions.
How does VoteBox help candidates?
Candidates can add valuable content to their profiles and accept campaign donations from voters. We charge a small service fee on donations made through VoteBox and also offer a premium analytics service to candidates. We never, ever share anyone's individual voting choices with anyone.
Does your website pull in news clips on candidates automatically?
We have developed an algorithm to aggregate media coverage on candidates. Our algorithm searches key news sources based on keywords. We preloaded over 15,000 federal and state candidate profiles with content and aggregated media coverage for this [election] cycle.
Some candidates don't answer parallel questions under the website's "compare" button. Is that what you intended?
The "compare" button pulls up candidates' positions on issues that they have chosen to provide. Sometimes the issues overlap, and sometimes they do not.
After the November 6 election, what's next for VoteBox?
We have used this election cycle as an opportunity to test the VoteBox concept, understand how voters and candidates use the features of the site, and verify that a need exists. Our focus leading up to the next election cycle, which begins next fall, is to incorporate the hundreds of thousands of candidates who run in local elections each year. By 2016, we hope that VoteBox will be where Americans go to make better voting decisions, ultimately leading to better government.