‘BeVote’ app encourages student turnout for midterms

Will Kosinski

A collaboration of researchers, professors and students are launching a new iOS app today to help and encourage members of the UT community to vote just before early voting begins on Oct. 22. 

The app, BeVote, will notify users of voting deadlines and inform them about registration, required IDs and maps with live wait times of polling locations, iOS app developer Robert McInvale III said.

“A lot of people understand that voting is important. They just lack the little push that enables them to actually go and cast a vote,” computer science senior McInvale said. “Having information available at their fingertips to tell them, ‘Hey, you can walk 20 feet and cast your ballot,’ is going to be very effective.”

Paul Toprac, computer science senior lecturer, sent out a request for pitches of new mobile apps last spring for the Simulation and Game Applications (SAGA) Lab, which creates software solutions for research purposes.

Hannah Wojciehowski, an English professor and co-founder of BeVote, pitched the idea for BeVote after she asked herself what could have made her younger self more civically engaged.

“I thought that if it were possible to put relevant, clearly worded information where students could find it and to make it easier for people to cast their votes, the whole process would become a lot more manageable,” Wojciehowski said in an email.

Soon afterward, Toprac approved the idea and recruited other faculty, graduate and undergraduate students to get BeVote up and running before the midterms. The Android version will launch in early November

Gabriel Fragozo, a communication sciences and disorders senior, said the last time he voted was in 2016 and sees value in the app moving forward.

“Part of the reason so many people around my age don’t vote is because they don’t know a lot about the process,” Fragozo said. “Having that user friendliness in an app will be really beneficial to getting these people out to vote.”

Data from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement showed 56.5 percent of registered UT students voted in 2016, but McInvale said he was motivated to continue increasing participation in the democratic process.

“If people aren’t getting their voice out then the country isn’t expressing the voice of the people,” McInvale said. “I just hope this app helps people to do that more easily.”