With 501(c)(3) Status and $50,000 in Donations, MyMaryland.net Announces October 15 Launch Date

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Social entrepreneur and University of Maryland, College Park senior Ben Simon secures 501(c)(3) federal tax-exempt status and $50,000 seed funding for his new civic networking start-up, MyMaryland.net. The site aims to revitalize American democracy by being the first website to connect voters and elected officials in an ongoing, online town hall.

Our ultimate goal is to scale this to all 50 states if we can prove the concept here in Maryland

22-year-old Ben Simon is founding MyMaryland.net with the dream of creating the first site to connect citizens and elected officials in an ongoing, open forum. Now, with $50,000 seed funding and newly-granted 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, he has announced this October 15 as the site's Alpha Launch Date -- the day he plans to make his dream a reality to a VIP cast of 50 elected officials and other stakeholders.

Simon and fellow students from the University of Maryland, College Park began designing MyMaryland.net after recognizing the need for a more responsive, transparent government. The website seeks to bring the town hall into the 21st century by leveraging the Internet to make participation easy for the average person.

Simon says this the Maryland launch is a pilot, and is part of a larger vision to eventually bring this greater political dialogue and citizen empowerment to the whole nation. "Our ultimate goal is to scale this to all 50 states if we can prove the concept here in Maryland," says Simon, who is studying government and politics and nonprofit management.

When users enter their address, MyMaryland.net matches them with the Maryland voter file to verify them as registered voters. Voters can then connect with their elected officials through voting on upcoming bills, posting comments and questions, and creating petitions. According to Simon, elected officials have just as much to gain -- all of these insights on their voters' opinions are valuable to them, and they even have the power to poll their whole district at once.

Simon has already received an overwhelmingly positive response from 55 Maryland state senators and delegates, including members of the Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government. “I'm excited about the potential of MyMaryland.net to advance transparency and responsiveness,” said Chief Deputy Majority Whip Justin Ross. “I'm looking forward to using it to connect with my constituents.”

This March, MyMaryland.net won the $1,000 grand prize at the University of Maryland, College Park's Fourth Annual Social Enterprise Symposium. Additionally, the UMD Student Government Association recently contracted the start-up for $2,500 to build special pages for UMD students to connect with campus leaders.

Simon is also the Founder and Executive Director of the award-winning Food Recovery Network, which unites students to donate food that would be wasted from their campus dining halls, and recently won the $15,000 grand prize in the Banking on Youth social entrepreneurship competition.

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MyMaryland.net is a new website to connect Maryland residents with their elected officials in democracy's first 24/7 online town hall. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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