While Santa Clarita Valley students marched on campuses and across town Wednesday as part of a national call to action, complaints of a disconnect could be heard on campuses from CalArts to Canyon High.
“The average citizen feels blocked out of the political process despite having every tool to be constantly engaged,” said Drake Hougo, a Saugus High alum and Stanford sophomore, explaining the idea behind the new app and site he and a couple friends are creating called Pulse.
“I started working on Pulse last April, with two friends I met through the Stanford Running Club,” Hougo said. “They’re both computer science majors and we’re all interested in politics.”
For Hougo, a double major in economics and political science, along with friends Sean O’Bannon and Andrew Quirk, the effort is devoutly nonpartisan, and they’re trying to reach as many representatives as they can.
But the seeds of engagement were planted at least a year earlier for Drake Hougo.
Drake’s dad, Von Hougo, a teacher in the Santa Clarita Valley, was actually a big part of the initial inspiration. Von Hougo created a campaign for the Senate in 2016, which was inspired by populist, even if somewhat “naive,” ideals, the elder Hougo confessed Friday.
But the campaign taught resonating lessons.
Running as a Republican who didn’t really connect with either party platform and either presidential candidate, Von Hougo found that there was much antipathy between the two partisan sides, but putting his personal cellphone on his ballot information (which was sent out to approximately 17 million Californians), made him realize most people are “in the middle.”
For Drake Hougo, the takeaway started the journey to Pulse.
“It was basically (the understanding) that technology has impacted every realm of our lives, but has not made the transition to government,” he said, “but it can be used to connect citizens to their elected reps on really a daily basis.”
And thus, Pulse was born.
They’ve already had a few sign up to be involved, and they’re hoping to make a big announcement after spring break regarding who all is involved.
They’ve been able to use their time at Stanford to take advantage of the StartX Accelerator Program, and it’s helped them earn a fellowship over the summer, which they plan to use to further Pulse’s development.
“It’s been really helpful to have these connections through that accelerator program,” said O’Bannon. “We’ve revamped the software.”
The group is looking for a revolution, said O’Bannon, the goal was a simple one.
“We definitely are a republic, we see this as a way our representatives can better understand the needs of their constituents,” O’Bannon said. “We want to allow our representatives to better understand the demographics that they serve, and we want to allow constituents to be able to voice their opinion more effectively than they ever have been able to.”
Right now, the focus on their site, Pulsevoter.com, is on the bills that are receiving the most media coverage, such as the American Healthcare Act and the Assault Weapons Ban of 2018.
The group is also looking for summer interns to help them develop their project. Anyone interested in learning more about Pulse can email [email protected].