As Congress faces record low approval ratings, one online platform is helping lawmakers hear from their constituents.
PopVox is website that allows users to directly contact congressional offices and give them their input on a piece of legislation.
Before PopVox came along, constituents would email their members of Congress, but congressional staff members would have no way of verifying whether or not the individual was actually a resident of the member’s district. As a result, emails to congressmen often did not carry much weight.
PopVox solves that problem by requiring users to enter their basic residential information when creating an account on the site. Because the site also has a social component, personal information is kept private except in emails to members of Congress.
Users also have a public screen name, which they can use to discuss various topics and pieces of legislation with other activists.
PopVox also functions as a site to gather polling data. When users identify their district and take a stance on a bill, that information is collected and organized into graphs. Congressional offices, activist groups and media outlets are able to access this public and transparent information.
Congressional staff members say they find PopVox useful because instead of receiving hundreds of emails from unidentified sources, messages from verified constituents come through in a readable and organized fashion.
With experience on the Hill herself, PopVox founder Marci Harris explained how it was often difficult to digest all of the emails sent to the office. She told The Daily Caller New Foundation, “There is so much information to be processed all of the time whether it is from organizations or constituents and there is no one place where it is all aggregated.”
Comments from people back home are important to members, explained Harris. Congressional offices place even more value on feedback from voters using PopVox because the platform demands that users indicate where they are from, whereas when people use social media to contact people on the Hill the congressional offices have no way of verifying if they are real constituents, says Harris.
Harris was named one of the most creative people in business by the business magazine Fast Company last year.
PopVox delivers information to all of the Hill’s congressional offices. House Democrats took it a step further in 2012 and officially integrated PopVox into their intranet system, DemCom.
Some conservative organizations have taken advantage of the platform as well. Heritage Action often uses it to mobilize grassroots activists for or against bills.
Nathanael Yellis, the deputy political director at Heritage Action, told TheDCNF that PopVox “has been a key tool in our arsenal to get our activists excited about talking to their members of Congress about an issue.”
The activist organization has used it to support the first repeal Obamacare bill in the Senate, to mobilize opposition of the farm bill, and to pressure Congress not to pass more gun control laws.
Yellis said that Heritage’s activists use it consistently and that they send around “10 to 15,ooo” messages to Congress every time they link to PopVox on the Heritage Action website.
Yellis told TheDCNF that in order to be a truly influential activist, “You must call your Congress members, write letters and use PopVox.”
The platform figures to get a workout over upcoming debates on spending, immigration and Obamacare.
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