Michael Henne is CEO and Co-Founder of Ulection, an online platform where citizens, candidates and elected officials can discuss the issues that matter in their communities. He created Ulection so citizens can interact with their political leaders to share ideas and make suitable policies. Henne works to remove money’s influence on politics and to inform voters about their respective candidates.
Harvard Political Review: What do you plan on achieving with Ulection?
Michael Henne: There are many different goals. I guess the most important one is to allow candidates to share their message directly to the locations they are running in, without paying any money. Right now money in politics is a very big issue. Candidates have to take big bribes from big special interest donors, and then once they are elected into office, they make decisions based on who funded their campaign, so this will be one simple step towards decreasing the effects of money in politics. This is one main objective. Another is to get people informed. I want people to go to the location page, find their candidate, learn who they are, and motivate them to vote. I feel that we don’t really know who the candidates are, so if people are more informed, then that will increase voter turnout, promote community organizing, and Ulection will facilitate making posts and create events.
HPR: Ulection – why now? Why do you believe something like this does not exist yet?
MH: There are a lot of approaches. People create posts for the candidates, like information-based websites. Those become irrelevant when the election is over – they’re seasonal and they cease to exist. With Ulection, it’s a space for communities to discuss important issues. Facebook does some of that – you can share posts with your friends and communities, but it does not have the location feature or a candidate feature.
HPR: Aside from your mission to prevent the growing influence of money in politics, has a certain relationship or interaction with a public official prompted you to make Ulection or was it something else?
MH: Bernie Sanders has talked about how money in politics was corrupting our politics, and that’s why politicians don’t represent us anymore and being someone who pays attention to political issues, I understand how it can easily corrupt our political system. On a more personal note, last November in San Francisco, we had the mayoral election. I never really heard about the other candidates, only the incumbent mayor. I didn’t know about the candidates, and there was no information about them, so that inspired me to create this as well, to create a page so someone can learn about the candidates.
HPR: Your platform – Ulection – is based on the Internet. The primary demographic seems to be adults and young adults in younger generations that have access to technology. How will Ulection reach out to older generations?
MH: Many people use Facebook, and there’s a lot of seniors who use Facebook, and if you know how to use Facebook, you know how to use Ulection. And the elderly tend to vote more and are more in touch with politics than young adults are. I feel Ulection is for everyone. We also have a campaign feature, which allows volunteers to get involved in the campaigns, to go knocking on doors and all that. And once volunteers go knocking on doors, they can introduce Ulection to older generations, saying “Hey, I’m from Ulection, working on so and so’s campaign.” They can then learn about the candidate on Ulection and then the candidate will become a household name. It’s very simple – you don’t need to have an account to learn about a candidate – you can just go on the website and browse it. It’s for everybody.
HPR: Where do you see Ulection in ten years?
MH: I want Ulection to help make candidates household names, so when election season comes around, elected officials can share policy decisions with their communities and have people rate the policy proposed so that elected officials can learn the views of the communities to create better policy. I also want to make tools for community organizing. Elected officials will create better policy, but they still need people to push them. So if we have community organizing, we can have people come together and advocate for certain issues, and that’s something I want people using in 10 years. Ulection also has a My Campus feature, so that students can share posts with others. Facebook started as a social network for college campuses but then transitioned into being a social network for friends. We’re going back to Facebook’s roots with the My Campus feature. It also encourages students to think critically about the issues that affect their campus. They can write about issues, polls, videos, and events. And I think it is important for people to take charge and invite their elected officials to Ulection, because it belongs to all of us. It’s our website, and people taking charge and inviting candidates and officials will allow us to discuss important issues in our community.
To learn more about Ulection visit https://ulection.com/
Image source credit: The San Diego Union-Tribune