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Small Empires: Can an app really get Americans to care about their government again?

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Capitol Bells keeps constituents alert to what their elected representatives are voting on, or not

Unless you're one of those gluttons for punishment who tunes in to CSPAN on a regular basis, it can be tough to follow along with the way the wheels of government are turning. That's especially true in recent years, when partisan gridlock has been the norm, not the exception. Civic engagement, as measured by voter turnout, is at its lowest point in the last 75 years.

Capitol Bells, a startup based in Washington, DC, is hoping to change all that. The service asks users where they are from so it can match them with the right members of Congress. Then it lets you cast your vote for upcoming bills, and informs you when your elected representative votes for, or against, or not at all.

The information conveyed by these votes goes both ways. Capitol Bells also alerts politicians to the votes of their constituents, providing a new way for citizens to make sure their voices are being heard. Users interested in drafting their own laws can submit what are called motions. These are voted on by the community and can be shared with friends. If they gain enough traction on Capitol Bells, motions are intended to galvanize support that could be translated into real-world political action.

For legislative junkies, Capitol Bells also provides a feed of trending bills they can vote on, currently topped by HR499, which would legalize marijuana at the Federal level, HR 20, which would attempt to reform elections by limiting campaign donations from wealthy individuals and corporations, and HR 1755, which prohibit employee discrimination based on sexual identity or gender orientation.

From Our Sponsor Inside Small Empires: Capitol Bells