Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett released an online voter engagement platform called the Benji Coin on May 17 to promote his campaign for California State Assembly District 15.
According to Bartlett, the coin is a digital campaign token that gives users easy access to his campaign information, policy information and track record and allows them to discuss policy with other voters — one of the first campaign devices of its kind. He added that the coin is powered by his partnership with the company United.vote, which one of his District 15 political opponents, Sergey Piterman, has also partnered with.
The coin originated as something the “kids,” or volunteers, in Bartlett’s campaign created in order to get young people involved in politics. Bartlett said it uses the idea of liquid democracy, which was adopted from Piterman’s campaign and blends both representative and direct democracy by allowing anyone with the coin to discuss ideas and choose those with more knowledge to propose these ideas to officials.
“The Benji Coin may just be one small token but it represents a giant leap forward for democracy,” Bartlett said in a press release. “It opens the doors of communication between people, communities and their elected officials.”
Anyone can get a Benji Coin simply by asking for one, going to Bartlett’s campaign website or by volunteering in his campaign, according to Bartlett.
Bartlett stated that the coin will not get any new functions because the primaries are so close, but he said he hopes it will get more young people involved in politics.
“For too long, we have accepted the status quo of modern American democracy as the best representation we’re going to get,” said fellow District 15 candidate and freelance writer Owen Poindexter in an email. “I applaud efforts like United.vote and Benji Coin to create a healthier, more streamlined relationship between representatives and constituents.”