Bradley graduate creates app for educating voters
A Bradley University graduate has a new way for voters to get more information about the names they see at the ballot box.
Jonathon Braun is the creator and founder of Perikles, a voting information app named after one of the first elected kings of Athens. He said the app’s namesake was a staunch defender and advocate of democracy.
“Originally, I named it Digital Democracy,” said Braun. “But a buddy of mine, Sam, pointed out that makes them think of Democrats.”
Braun eventually settled on Perikles as being pro-democracy and a neutral word in terms of party affiliation. The branding includes an Athenian owl as part of the app’s logo.
“It provides information for you on where you can go to vote, how to register to vote and what all will be on your ballot,” he said. “It’s also a free platform for all the candidates to put their information on.”
Braun said Perikles is a “non-biased source.” He doesn’t write anything on the app for the candidates — it comes directly from them. The only rule he has is that a candidate’s page can only be personal, including nothing about their opponent.
“It’s purely just what I plan to do, what’s my past,” he said. “The overall goal of it is so when someone goes to the voting booth, they never have to guess. I don’t like it when people guess when it comes to positions of power. You should be just as confident in your county clerk choice as you would be in your presidential choice.”
Braun said candidates’ approach to how to present their information on the app has varied wildly.
“Do they go for bullet points? Do they want a long-winded explanation?” he said. “Some link to videos, some link to websites and use like a sources cited-type of situation. It’s been fascinating to see how that’s grown.”
Braun came up with the idea for Perikles in 2018, while helping his roommate from El Salvador prepare for his first time voting in the midterm election.
“We spent an entire day doing research into every candidate on the ballot,” said Braun. “It took us a while just to find a sample ballot in the first place.”
The whole ordeal across more than 20 sources, he said, made him wonder why the information wasn’t all in one place. He also discovered some political disagreements with his roommate, but they could still be “perfectly good as best friends.”
“It was very much just a light going off in your head,” he said. “Of, well, why don’t people do this for everything?”
With the idea, a computer science major and help from Bradley staff and alumni, Braun had a bare bones version of Perikles operational just before the 2020 presidential election.
“I got it to where I wanted, it still wasn’t fully refined,” he said. “But it was live on iOS and Android at that point.”
Braun has been tweaking the program since then. The app currently covers election information for five area counties: Peoria, Tazewell, Fulton, Knox and Woodford. Braun hopes future collaboration with county clerks and state and federal election agencies will allow the coverage to expand. Braun believes the app has the potential to eventually be used nationally and even globally.
“I’m about ready to break over 500 downloads right now,” he said. “Hopefully going into the local elections in March we’ll be able to get a lot more of the Bradley students involved and can see a real impact in that race.”
For now, if you live in one of those five counties, you can download the app, create an account, put in your address and have information about voter registration, polling places and candidate policy in your area.
As Braun eyes expansion, he has a close friend looking into financial opportunities like grants and another friend looking into future hiring. Perikles also has been picked up as a member of Peoria's Distillery Labs gBeta accelerator program for startups.
“No man can ever do anything, everything by themselves,” said Braun. “You need partnerships, you need people to support you, you need people to also have those light bulb moments of like ‘that is a good idea, we should do this.’”
However Perikles looks in the next few years, Braun hopes the app helps voters treat elections less like a sporting event and more like hiring for a job.
“In order to hire for a job, you need to know who your best candidates are and to know what it is that they stand for. And what it is that they hope to achieve with that as well,” he said. "If you’re not treating it like a sports franchise and you’re putting legitimate policy down, not just gotcha terms in order to disenfranchise your opponent, well we could start to look and be like: ‘We both want to achieve these goals. What can we do to achieve them in a bipartisan manner?’”
Perikles is available to download on the Apple and Android stores.