Do you feel strongly about a political subject but aren’t sure how to express your opinion in a meaningful way? Luckily, the internet makes it easier than ever to stay involved in the political landscape. Below are some easy ways to make sure you stay informed and your voice is heard:
Keep Track of the Bills In Congress
The 115th Congress began on January 3rd, 2017 and will run in two year-long sessions, culminating in January of 2019. During each Congress, thousands of bills are introduced, with only a small percentage becoming law. These bills vary in length and complexity, from four page bills renaming VA clinics to thousand page bills proposing a new health care system.
If manually keeping track of thousands of bills sounds daunting, fear not: Congress.gov’s “Yesterday in Congress” section allows anyone to quickly see what bills have been introduced and passed on a given day, all the way back to the 70s. Other sites, like GovTrack.us, allow you to tailor alerts to particular subject areas like education or immigration, so you will be notified when legislation for topics you care about is proposed.
There’s even apps like Countable which condenses bills into easy to digest summaries, outlines pros and cons, and let’s you directly contact your representatives to show your support or opposition. Countable also tracks how each member of Congress votes on an issue so you can be sure they vote as promised.
These tools make it easy for anyone with an internet connection to stay up to date on the daily dealings in Congress.
Contact Your State Representatives and Senators
Once you’re informed about a bill, now it is time to hold your elected officials accountable. Don’t be content letting your vote do the talking at election time; instead make sure your representatives hear from you regularly.
Contact information for all members of the Senate can be found at: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
while you can find your local congressman or congresswoman here:
Although it may be tempting to write a quick email and call it a day, keep in mind that emails are easier to ignore- not out of disinterest on the politician’s part but due to the sheer volume received. With members of Congress receiving more email than ever, it is nearly impossible to respond to them all. Instead, pick up the phone and call; odds are you’ll be connected to a staff member who will take your message. All you need to provide is your name and town. These messages are then summarized and presented to the elected officials.
A two minute phone call is all it takes!
Attend Town Hall Meetings
More effective than writing an email or calling, you can also attend local town hall meetings. These meetings allow congressmen and women to meet their constituents face to face, giving you an opportunity to ask pointed questions. But even if you don’t get the chance to ask a question, don’t worry; your mere presence at the meeting can speak louder. A large crowd showing in response to an issue sends a strong message to elected officials. After all, those crowds hold the power to remove them from office next election, so it’s in the official’s best interest to pay attention.
So how do you find the next scheduled town hall meeting? That will depend on your area. Most representatives have their own websites and social media accounts which announce upcoming events. Of course if you can’t find any meetings listed, the simplest way to find scheduled meetings is to call your representative’s office and ask.
Whether via email, a phone call, or during an in person meeting, there are a few tips to keep in mind when communicating your stance:
- Be prepared. Know enough about the topic to hold a conversation and debate an opponent.
- Keep your message concise.
- Be polite. Being disrespectful will ensure you don’t receive a response.
- Follow up. It’s not enough to say your peace once then move on. If you feel strongly about the subject, continue to check in until you get an answer.
Stay involved and make sure you hold elected officials’ feet to the fire. Remember, they work for you, the voter.