This tool makes information about legislation understandable and accessible, plus offers ways to get your voice heard
It's undeniable that the recent election, and the events following President Trump's inauguration, have ignited a huge amount of activism in those who live in the United States—and around the world. People are more thoughtful about purchasing products from companies that donate proceeds to charities, have begun (or increased) regular donations to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, continue to attend marches, write letters and make phone calls to senators—the list goes on. Precisely because there's so much we can do, though oftentimes it feels like there isn't, Countable was created—an app that translates legislation into understandable terms, and lets users tell relevant lawmakers how they want them to vote on their behalf. When users vote for or against upcoming legislation, Countable then generates a message and sends it to the appropriate Congressional representatives.
The app was launched late in 2013 by Bart Myers and Peter Arzhintar (also the founders of SideReel) with the goal to empower voters, but the start-up has seen a rise in users more recently. We spoke with Myers (co-founder and CEO) about how they encourage users to get involved, make noise, share opinions and ultimately facilitate change.
While it might seem obvious—what do you want Countable to offer users, or not offer?
The one thing we don’t want to offer is our own opinion. We want users to know Countable is here to help with two things. First, in this era of a million outlets and social media channels telling you 50 different things about the same issue, we’re an oasis from the noise. We’ll help you make heads or tails of an issue or bill, so you really understand it. Second, we’ll give you an easy way to tell your lawmaker how to vote on any bill or issue, so that it can be a part of your daily routine. Wake up, have your coffee, spend a couple of minutes reading about issues up in front of Congress, and tapping a button to tell your lawmakers what you think.
Have you seen a dramatic increase in sign-ups over the last few months?
Our user stats are crazy right now. Just from election day until 31 January, Countable has been installed 273,000 times on iOS, gained 295,000 new users, and delivered over 1,500,000 messages to Capitol Hill from users looking to affect their government.
How important is creating a community on Countable?
We do want to create a community, but... we don’t want yelling. We don’t want people targeting each other. Rather, we want people to be able to promote the opinions they find most useful, and educational to them, as a means of helping others get additional info that might help them. We have a great writing team, and we think we cover everything, but a lot of times one of our users makes a great point, and that opinion gets upvoted on a bill, as does an opposing point of view. That’s the kind of cooperative community we want—the idea that we need to help each other out.
Do you have some tips for readers who want to take action—other than using Countable?
The one thing we cannot provide for you—yet—is a way to show up to town halls and meetings. We can do a lot, but talking to your lawmaker face-to-face is extremely effective, and we encourage everyone to show up at the local town hall meetings. But, if you can’t, we actually have a “video message” tool, where you can record and send a message to your lawmaker, right from your phone or computer. A few former and current lawmakers say that it’s a very persuasive means of sending a message.
Do you feel hopeful about politics in the United States—if only because the current climate is sparking action?
It’s been unreal, the rebirth of activism, the last few months. Say what you want about Donald Trump, but he has people taking action, again. Of course, all of us might say we’d rather not see this or that, but I think overall, we’ve seen passionate activism on both sides. America never loses if more people get involved in the process. In that sense, I’m very heartened.
Screengrabs by Cool Hunting, all other images courtesy of Countable