Project: I Vote Autism

In this earlier post on single-issue voting, I described the genesis of my new political strategy/philosophy. So what? My goal is to create a framework for very specific, detailed information about politicians and voting records at all levels of government: federal, state, and local. We need to track not just voting on new laws but also funding decisions and program support and efficacy down to the school board level. Here’s an example, from a different context, of the level of detail I’d like to see.

With detailed information from a variety of sources on the actions taken, not the words spoken or empathy expressed, we parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and especially self-advocates can become vastly better informed about how to cast our votes. Americans have spread out across the states and towns of our nation throughout the last 50 years; few of us live with our whole families in towns where we can influence political processes to the same extent as those who recognize more clearly defined common interests. But our children our everywhere, and there’s no reason my parents in upstate NY shouldn’t be voting to support ASD issues there just like my friends in California or Massachusetts. The problems of those children ARE my son’s problems. This entire class of children and adults, and perhaps an entire burgeoning ASD generation, needs our protection, assistance, and support so we can build in them the power to speak for themselves.

“…to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men….”

From a technical perspective, I imagine this project as being built in layers as tools rather than documents. What this means is that it starts with a straightforward national layer, since there are a number of good sources to get information about Congress and votes/actions on bills/amendments. It’s also relatively easy to look at something like Autism Votes for a list of important bills to track. Similar tools could be built at the state and then county/local levels to track both legislators and legislation. Then, the system could be expanded to track the executive branch and even judges. A user should be able to designate an organization that maintains a list of the public policy issues that group is tracking (like Autism Votes does here).

So what makes this different than Autism Votes? First off, I see this as a very direct, reductionist verdict, a thumbs-up/thumbs-down on every person tracked. Remember, the premise is that ASD issues are more important to most people in our community than just about anything else. I don’t know at which point this idea crosses over into lobbying and the political influence categories that trigger different regulatory requirements, but it’s not a problem at this nascent stage.

The key to this project is the combination of some straightforward web 2.0 tools with a definite crowdsourced component (only locals will put school board names on a list after each election) and the ability to share judgments OPENLY, so people can advocate for their own views. For example, I would imagine that the science-heavy crowd among parents would diverge greatly from the “warrior mom” contingent on how they would rate people who support/oppose particular vaccine research funding. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. Politics is how we deal with allocations of scarce resources in a democracy. It might as well work!

(As an aside, if this project were built with an open and extensible design plan, such as using references to open-source/public wiki-style definitions files, it could be expanded into a grass-roots political action tool for people with any particular concern.)