Graduate students are hoping their website will allow citizens to work together on laws.
It’s an election year, and politicians are promising many reforms. One Temple doctoral student is seeking reform too, but in the form of a new website.
Direct Congress – directcongress.org – was initiated to build information technologies that empower people to create laws.
“Direct Congress is government 2.0. It tweaks our existing system,” said Cory Suter, a graduate economic student and chief steward of Direct Congress.
Direct Congress should not to be confused with a direct democracy. Suter’s website seeks to adapt the way Congress runs by rooting out corruption and giving people a say, he said.
Rather than placing all of the power in politicians that don’t necessarily represent everybody, Direct Congress is a way for everyone to have a voice, Suter said.
“We are all aware of grievances from multiple facets of society about the legislature not being sufficiently participatory in nature,” Keshar Ghimire, director of promotions and database management at Direct Congress, said. “Many people feel left out. Direct Congress provides a feasible solution to that problem by letting eligible people create and vote on laws digitally at their convenience.”
Direct Congress is designed so that anyone can create a bill.
Ten users have to vote for a bill once it is proposed to move it on to the next stage where it gets put up for voting by active Direct Congress members.
If 20 percent of members vote on the bill, every Direct Congress member will receive an email notifying them that there is a new bill on the “voting floor.” A majority of the members must vote for it before the bill moves to the online “president’s desk.” Research and modifications can be made at various stages of this process.
“‘The president’s desk’ means that this is a bill that Direct Congress thinks should be a national law,” Suter said. “We hope that some congressmen would take it seriously because it’s been through a long process to get it there.”
The website is not yet fully functional. It needs more testing, more members, publicity and funding, founders said.
Suter said he hopes that once Direct Congress is fully functional, members of Congress will bring the bills to the floor of the U.S. Congress and vote the way their constituents on the website do.
If members of Congress use Direct Congress in this way, it has the potential to make reelection easier, Suter said. Therefore, Direct Congress could be vital to a politician’s career in the political process.
Suter is pursuing his doctorate degree in economics and recently sold his company, BioNeighbors. He is leading Direct Congress as a proven entrepreneur and said he is confident in the business plan.
Like Suter, Ghimire is pursuing a Ph.D. in economics at Temple. The two are hoping the university community will help advance the website. Direct Congress needs more feedback and leadership, they said. That’s where they hope Temple students will come into play.
“Just like Harvard was the guinea pig for Facebook, Temple [students and faculty are] to be the first adopters of Direct Congress,” Suter said.
But founders said the website’s records will be public and, in order for administration to make major changes to the site, members have to propose those changes as a law first.
“[Direct Congress] on the Web has the potential of completely transforming our lives much like [Mark] Zuckerberg’s Facebook or even more,” Ghimire said.
Sarah Fleischman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.