With Penhole, Use Cell Phone To Tackle Basic Political Questions

Want to get better at participating in representative democracy?

A group of young adults has a new app to help with that.

“It all began with two simple questions,” James Fletcher said. “Can you name your legislative representatives? If so, do you know how they are representing you day to day by voting? Well, it turns out that the vast majority of people cannot answer the first, and I have only encountered a handful who can speak to the second.’

The friends began working on a solution more than a year ago.

“We found that a majority of people are actually interested in knowing the answer to both of these questions,” Fletcher said. “However, it takes too much time to search for the answers due to a lack of quick accessibility.”

Their answer: Penhole. The free app was released in September – in time to help voters before the November election get more familiar with where their federal lawmakers stand.

“We believe that this information is vital to our democracy, and so our mission is to provide simple, easily accessible, legislative and representative information straight from the source with no slant or spin,” Fletcher said.

Their goal is to provide information on elected officials and legislation at federal, state, and local levels, but, for now, the app only offers federal information, according to penhole.com.

After installation, users provide information about where they live so the app can identify their federal lawmakers, a U.S. representative and two U.S. senators.

Users can follow their lawmakers’ votes and select issues to watch. Don’t like a bill or how your lawmaker voted? Give it a thumbs down. Like it? Give it a thumbs up.

“We think these ‘user votes’ are incredible indications and data points for elected officials who want to know where their constituents stand on a certain position, bill, or amendment,” Fletcher said. “It is very similar to polling – except there are no tailored questions or targeted demographics. The user input is voluntary and authentic. It is a modern way for people to make their voices heard. If they choose to look at the data we have, politicians can act – in real-time – on what voters in their district want done.”

The Penhole executive team includes Trent Koen as CEO, Tyree Pearson as chief technology officer, Arya Ayati-Ghaffari as chief information officer, and Fletcher as chief operating officer. Still, all of them “wear a lot of different hats,” Fletcher said.

“One day, I am speaking with our attorney reviewing a contract, the next meeting with potential investors or clients, and at the end of the week, I’m discussing the technical side with our team,” he said.

He and Koen also attend the SMU Dedman School of Law.

“We began as a group of students with one goal in mind, provide authentic information straight from the source,” Fletcher said. “We cannot be more excited to bring this product to market during such a crucial time.”

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William Taylor

William Taylor, editor of Park Cities People and Preston Hollow People, shares a name and a birthday with his dad and a love for community journalism with his colleagues at People Newspapers. He joined the staff in 2016 after more than 25 years working for daily newspapers in such places as Alexandria, Louisiana; Baton Rouge; McKinney; San Angelo; and Sherman, though not in anywhere near that order. A city manager once told him that “city government is the best government” because of its potential to improve the lives of its residents. William still enjoys covering municipal government and many other topics. Follow him on Twitter @Seminarydropout. He apologizes in advance to the Joneses for any angry Tweets that might slip out about the Dallas Cowboys during the NFL season. You also can reach him at [email protected]. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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