BYU student develops online platform for voter education

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BYU computer science student Jared Pacheco sits at his computer. Pacheco took a semester off of school to construct a website that promotes voter education. (Derek VanBuskirk)

BYU computer science student Jared Pacheco took a semester off of school to construct a website that promotes voter education.

The website, called ThePeople, is currently in its beta stage. It allows users to take a mock ballot and compare ballot candidates. It also flags certain policies and emails mock ballots to users. Pacheco said he plans to expand the website to cover politicians running for elections in other states and to increase the site’s capabilities.

Pacheco said he believed that politicians were not being held accountable enough for straying from their campaign promises and concluded that it would be beneficial for a website to post the stances of political candidates, taken directly from their websites, and have them compared to the platforms of other candidates, as well as to their own actual voting records.

Pacheco said he planned to sit on the idea until after he had graduated and spent a few years in the workforce; however, after almost losing his life in a car accident last year, he said he realized that he had not yet done any of the things he really wanted to do.

Though he said he mainly paused his schooling to work on this project because life could change at any moment, Pacheco is also motivated by the fear of wasting this time that he could be using to progress toward graduation.

“His motivations to pause school for this are sound,” BYU graduate start-up advisor Joshua McKinney said. “Jared has figured this out, and he’s stepping into the unknown to make the world a better place by strengthening the democracy we all share.”

Pacheco said he plans to build the platform into a for-profit business and that he plans on charging candidates to use his platform to reach out to the public and garnish votes.

The only candidate to have currently signed on to use this platform for the upcoming election is Utah resident Cole Kelley, who is running for a position on the Alpine school board.

“I personally view this as a tool that will greatly improve the voting process and making people feel more informed when they go to do the voting research themselves,” said Pacheco while discussing what he hopes his platform would contribute to this and upcoming elections.

Pacheco sits at his computer, coding for the website. BYU computer science student Jared Pacheco took a semester off of school to construct a website that promotes voter education. (Derek VanBuskirk)

Pacheco reached out to many organizations and BYU clubs for feedback on this project, and received a response from the BYU College Republicans.

“I say the site as it is right now is a little bare bones, but going forward, I think it’s something that could really help people to understand better what the candidates believe,” BYU College Republicans president Isaac Grow said.

Pacheco talks about his website in a classroom. BYU computer science student Jared Pacheco took a semester off of school to construct a website that promotes voter education. (Derek VanBuskirk)

Pacheco said this experience has given him an opportunity to put into practice what he has been learning in his computer science classes at BYU.

He also said working on the website has taught him more about himself, discovered how hard it is to stay on task and learned how to better avoid getting distracted.

Overall, Pacheco said he is proud of what he has done and what he has to show for his last six months of work.

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