Congress voted on more than 700 bills in the current session, but unless you work in advocacy, it’s likely that you only heard about a couple of them.
A site called IssueVoter is designed to make it much simpler to follow what elected officials are doing, easily share opinions about proposed bills, and track the results of votes.
“I use this analogy: When you hire someone, and you pay and promote them, you get to see their work and evaluate the work they’re doing,” says Maria Yuan, IssueVoter founder and CEO. “But when we vote for someone we don’t necessarily see the work they’re doing, yet we do continue to reelect our elected officials.”
Before a vote, the site sends users targeted alerts outlining the arguments for and against the bill. After reading the details, users can click a simple “oppose” or “support” button to send their representative’s office an anonymous message with their opinion. (Contrary to some stereotypes, legislators do care what voters think about issues–and staffers keep tallies of constituent sentiment).
The site also provides contact details for representatives, though it encourages people to send their opinion electronically. “Even though advocacy organizations often encourage phone calls, I do think that’s changing,” Yuan says. “Basically the industry, so to speak, is going to have to evolve, just like every other industry has evolved, to doing things online.”
Yuan argues that it’s more practical to share opinions electronically (and unlike a petition, representatives getting opinions through the site will know that voters have seen both sides of an issue).
“There are only so many hours in a day, only so many phone calls that a staffer can answer,” she says. “So by doing it electronically, it allows for so many more voices to be heard.”
Yuan created the site out of personal frustration–it was something that she wished existed for a decade, and that she kept assuming someone else would build. After that didn’t happen, she took the project on herself.
“I felt that there needed to be this one-stop shop, a place from start to finish for people to get an alert that your elected official is voting on something, all the way to seeing how they voted, and then being able to use that information in the next election,” she says.