Groups hope to change Maine through new online contest

Posted March 20, 2012, at 5:30 p.m.
Last modified March 21, 2012, at 2:09 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Food, housing, art, education, transportation and the media are among the aspects of Maine life that groups of young people are proposing to change through a new contest that is under way.

The Maine League of Young Voters Education Fund is introducing Launch Maine, pitting teams of would-be world-changers into a competition for online votes and, ultimately, a $500 prize to help move their ideas forward.

Groups seeking to boost, for instance, a fledgling documentary effort or a media literacy program for girls have through March 28 to rally support on the League’s voting page. A group of about five finalists then will move on to the next round, with ranked choice voting to be used to select the winner at an April 6 event.

Pamela Yomoah, who is promoting the contest for the league, said the $500 winnings may pale in comparison to the benefits of greater public exposure for all 31 entrants in the challenge. While the cash prize will go only to one of the projects, Yomoah said even the participants who don’t win likely will find donors and supporters through their online appeals for votes.

“That’s the big draw of the whole contest,” she said Tuesday. “Every contestant who submits and gets on the website has an opportunity to be seen by the greater public. It’s been quite successful. The outpouring of interest from contestants has been so great, hopefully, it’ll be an annual event.”

Among the contenders are some familiar faces, such as a television show made by members of the now-dispersed OccupyMaine encampment, while others are trying to break through, such as a proposed running club for at-risk youths.

One entrant blends organic smoothies with a device powered by the spinning gears of a bicycle, and a trio hoping to develop an organization — “GruntMatch” — matches people willing to donate manual labor with groups needing the help.

“I was really surprised by the variety,” said Yomoah.

A full list of contestants can be found at youngvoter.org/me/launchme.

CORRECTION:

An early version of this story requires correction. The first round of voting ends on March 28, not March 27, and ranked choice voting at an event will determine the winner from among the finalists, not an online vote.

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