Help them speak and vote “For the people”.
Our elected officials answer to their constituents in the voting booth, so most want to know what voters are thinking. Your opinions have power. If we all take the time to voice our thoughts and opinions to our elected officials, our messages will be heard. If we can make ourselves heard, we have more power than lobbyists because we are the voters they need on their side to stay in office.
Congress.org is a non-partisan website (not officially connected to Congress) that makes it easy to both engage in the issues in your communities and become advocates. By subscribing to their weekly email you can look up your representatives and follow their votes. It will provide you email addresses for your reps and what votes are upcoming. Their blog also highlights trends and major policy activity at the state level and follows various advocacy efforts.
I learned about a popular start-up called Countable from my oldest daughter. Countable seeks to give citizens a greater voice in national politics. Countable provides an overview of the bills being debated by our representatives. It allows us to instantly send emails to these representatives telling them how we’d like them to vote. Each bill before the House and Senate is explained clearly. You can vote ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ or skip voting. You can also request more information about the bill. Countable will keep track of how your reps voted on bills compared to the way you wanted them to vote.
There are more and more tech tools being launched for voters to make their voices heard. The Madison Project, software created by the OpenGov Foundation, allows citizens to add their opinions about proposed bills and existing policies. It is for both citizens and legislators. Find the bills you care about and add comments, ask questions and suggest changes.
I prefer Countable to The Madison Project because you can register an opinion on issues and don’t have to wait for specific bills. Simply sign up and begin sending your opinions and thoughts to Congress.
Daily Action is another way to stay up to date on issues you care about. Phoning your legislators to voice your opinion works, whichever side of an issue you are on. Daily Action follows the agendas and the news and alerts its subscribers what’s coming up for a vote. Their mission is to make civil engagement easy and painless.
Hearts and Minds.org is a non-profit dedicated to eliminating extreme poverty around the world. It also has an excellent in-depth instruction website called How to Lobby Your Elected Officials (adapted from an article by Common Cause.org). It provides helpful detailed instructions on how to most effectively contact your legislator through email, fax, telephone, written letter or personal meeting. They give guidance on what to include in your communications and how to make them most effective. There is a section on how laws are passed in Congress and when to lobby. There are also suggestions for other ways to make your opinions heard like letters to the editor, distributing flyers and radio call-in shows, among others.