Vote Owl Flew to Ashe Dem Meeting
Over 40 enthusiastic Democrats and friends attended the Ashe County Democratic Party’s monthly meeting on August 22, 2023, at the Ashe Arts Council. After regular business and committee reports were completed, Chair Amanda Gentry introduced the founders of Vote Owl (Ken Moxley, Gary Zuckerman, and Ken Lewis) as the night’s guest speakers.
These gentlemen developed the smartphone app Vote Owl, which helps voters decide which candidates to vote for (the “whoo”) by generating a sample ballot using information trusted and selected by the voter. Vote Owl also identifies when and where to vote by automatically providing official voting locations, times, along with directions and reminders based upon the voter’s voting districts.
Vote Owl is essentially a one-stop-shop app containing links, background information on candidates, and other important information. It reduces the need for a user to search different websites for basic voting information. The Ashe County Democratic Party was invited to be one of three pilot counties for Vote Owl, which is still in its beta phase.
Gary Zuckerman, spoke about how easy the software would be to access and provide information on polling dates, times, locations, but also candidate information.
Ken Lewis, former Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, noted how how Republicans are working to discourage and create barriers to voting. However, he said the main goal of Vote Owl is to encourage people to vote and make the process more convenient. “There are registered voters who don’t vote, but more eligible voters who don’t register. There are more people on our side that just don’t vote, so much potential,” he said.
Ken Romley, is a software engineer who ran as a Democrat for U.S. Congress in 2018. He discussed how American democracy is fragile and voters should not take it for granted. He noted how his wife’s family struggled under the Fernando Marcos regime in the Philippines, where democratic principles were continually challenged. He emphasized how Vote Owl can help a voter eliminate disinformation and choose trustworthy information. Vote Owl can also generate QR codes that can be shared with other Vote Owl users, so they can share voter information.
Vote Owl is free to download for users. For more information on Vote Owl, contact https://voteowl.org/. The Ashe County Democratic Party is still exploring Vote Owl’s features and will provide updates at its next general meeting.
From left, Ken Romley, Gary Zuckerman, and Ken Lewis educate the Ashe Dems about Vote Owl and how it can empower voters with accurate information.
Ken Romley discusses technical aspects of Vote Owl.
Ken Lewis is excited about Vote Owl because of its abilities to empower voters and combat voting disinformation.
Ashe Dem Ashley Moretz-Elks brought her grandfather HC Moretz, Jr., to the meeting. HC is 99 years old! This was his first Ashe Dem meeting and was impressed at the group’s enthusiasm. HC is a WWII veteran and feels strongly about preserving American Democracy. More on that in a future Ashe Dem article.
Andrew Cole from Ashe County Museum of History
Over 51 people attended the ACDP monthly meeting on July 25, 2023, for a history lesson given by Andrew Cole, Director of the Ashe County Museum of History. Mr. Cole gave a presentation on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (FDR) New Deal and related programs, including the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The ACDP invited Mr. Cole to give the presentation, which was non-partisan in nature and focused on how the New Deal impacted Ashe County and surrounding areas.
Mr. Cole explained to a packed room in the Ashe County Arts Council building that the New Deal was multifaceted and included many programs, reforms, and public projects, all designed to lift America out of the Great Depression and “get people back to work.” In addition to bringing electricity to rural America through the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and introducing improved farming practices, the New Deal created new public infrastructure and employment opportunities through the CCC and WPA. Several buildings constructed under the WPA are still being used in Ashe County, including the Ashe County Arts Council building; the Old Ashe County Hospital Building, which now serves as affordable housing; and the Old Lansing high school which houses the Lost Province Center for the Cultural Arts. For more information on the Museum, go to https://ashehistory.org/.
Afterward, attendee Doug Worsham shared his personal account of when he was five in 1938 and saw FDR. He and his family attended a New Deal electrification ceremony at a local football stadium in rural Georgia where FDR pulled a ceremonial switch that turned on electricity to the town. Later that night his family returned home to find the sole light bulb in their house illuminated. Mr. Worsham’s family and neighbors benefitted from New Deal funding in other ways too. The dirt road leading to his home was graded with WPA funding, eliminating the need to tow the family car down a dirt path with a tractor to access the paved road.
On June 27, 2023, Dr. Elizabeth Underwood, executive director of the New River Conservancy (NRC), spoke to ACDP members at its monthly meeting about the NRC’s mission to protect the waters, woodlands, and wildlife of the river. The New River, which flows south to north and meanders through three states, is the oldest river on the North American continent. It is a centerpiece of Ashe County’s tourism and contributes significantly to its economy. Dr. Underwood discussed how in 1976 the New River was protected by bipartisan federal legislation. She discussed the importance of keeping the river clean. The NRC engages in a variety of river protection activities, including river clean-ups, water quality testing, educational outreach, and land acquisition. For more information on the NRC, go to https://newriverconservancy.org/.