Communicating with representatives is among the most important parts of political action
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While some Americans are happy with the results of the most recent election cycle, others are concerned about the future of the country and the welfare of its people.
And even for those whose preferred candidates won, they may be wondering if their representatives will stick to the campaign promises they made.
The election is only the beginning of political action in America. There are more steps to policy implementation than electing a specific candidate, and a disconnect seems to exist between representatives and their constituents.
But the victors of every election represent everyone. Their job is to answer to us, to represent us, and to fight for what we the people need.
To hold elected representatives accountable for their campaign platforms and promises, people must talk to them. While this may seem like a daunting task, it’s one of the most important parts of the political process.
“We are at a unique point in American and Illinois state history. The more democracy we have – the more people we have getting involved – the better,” said Brian Mackey, statehouse reporter for NPR Illinois.
The first step in getting involved is to find out who your representatives are at the local, state, and federal levels.
Common Cause, a non-profit organization whose mission is to hold government accountable, provides user-friendly tools to determine someone’s representatives and even provides the contact information for representatives with links to their respective websites.
Next, research the issues they support, the committees they serve on, and the bills they introduce, sponsor, or vote on. The Illinois General Assembly website and Govtrack.us both offer information on the committees that state and federal representatives serve on and what bills they do or don’t support.
Another great resource is the Countable app, available on both iPhone and Android devices, which provides easy access to representatives and real-time updates on important bills passing through Congress.
“Who you contact depends on what issues you want to affect,” said Mackey.
“If you want to support or repeal the Affordable Care Act, contact your federal representatives. If you want to address education funding, contact your state representatives.”
That’s the last step: Contact them. Direct contact by phone or email is the most effective way to be heard.
“Elected representatives respond when their constituents contact them,” said Mackey.
It’s important to mention to them that you are their constituent. If you voted for them, tell them. Talk about the policies you do and don’t support.”
And most importantly, continue to follow up. Let your representative know that you are watching them and that you will continue to hold them accountable for their actions.