Remember, I said I was starting from the very beginning!
Your elected officials make decisions on your behalf. You pay them to represent you. Get to know who they are and how they vote. Eventually you’ll communicate with them but this post is about just getting familiar. Buckle up! A broad range of feelings is likely in your future.
If you’re starting from scratch here, begin with your congressional reps: govtrack.us/congress/members
Govtrack.us has a fancy pants tool that will show your reps if you type in the address (pay attention to the example address format, and match it). Each senator and representative has their own page. It shows you the ratings they got from advocacy orgs, gives them liberal–conservative ideology score and a leadership score, like this:
And lots of other good nerdery should you choose to dive deeper. While you’re at it you can subscribe to notifications about their “major sponsorship” and voting activity, follow them on Twitter, etc.
Today’s climate is so polarized that it’s typically straight forward to see which side your rep sits and what to expect from their votes. Since we’re trying to stay sustainable here, only subscribe to these email updates if you’re really invested in learning about your rep’s choices. The automated messages have the original bill language, which often doesn’t have much meaning without context. Many reps will go to social media and explain why they voted one way or another, in case you do see the bill summary and want more info.
Get to know who your representatives are, where they align on issues that matter to you, and when their term ends.
Already know your congressional reps? Good! How about your governor? Your mayor? These sites aren’t quite as cool but they’ll get you started.
Got that too? Look up your state legislators. Ohioans should start with this lookup page and everyone else can Google or start at this map to find your state legislature website.
Ballotopedia has a clumsy name and a sad UI but everything you need to know about upcoming elections at national, state and local levels.
– use the menu on the right hand side to select another state & the chamber
State executive official elections in 2018
– and for those wondering, Jerry Springer declined to run for governor this year.
Learn about what your reps care about, what promises they’re making and how they make themselves available to constituents like you. This can vary–you’ve probably seen headlines about town hall dodging or even cease and desist letters from one particular Senator (eeek!).
You’ll also feel smart when your rep enters the room at an event. Even if you have no idea what to say to them at least you’re hip to what’s going on. I was this close to saying hi to Ted Strickland at Rambling House Soda once–see, cool story right?
There’s a bunch of resources for staying in touch with your reps. Any I missed? Elected offices you like to watch but I didn’t mention here? There are quite a few. Parents, for example, might keep up with their kid’s school board. Share your go-tos in the comments to help us all tune in.