We have a crisis in citizen engagement in the democratic process:
- 1/3 of U.S. citizens can name their federal House representative (New American Democracy)
- 27% can name both U.S. Senators (American Thinker)
- 19% have contacted a local elected official over a one-year period (National Research Center).
This leaves a void too easily filled by the powerful and connected. Even in our more engaged Trump world, state government too often gets left out. Who is your state representative? When is the last time you contacted them? In our federal system, states run elections, manage schools, operate criminal justice systems, and have a huge impact in a host of issues ranging from guns to the environment. Making changes here can make a big difference.
But we all lead busy lives and it's difficult to keep track of everything. The tools politicians use to foster engagement are decidedly last century: canvassing, phone calls, direct mail, and town halls. We need text, social, and Internet-facilitated interaction. We need a 21st century tool to Engage in issues and elections on our terms.
That is where Engage comes in. From the stakeholder process to the final vote, citizens opt-in to text and/or e-mail alerts on issues they care about, not only voting yes or no, but also communicating with their representative and getting alerts in critical moments where public support is needed. Legislators not only get constituent voting statistics (including the critical why explanation) but can also foster direct relationships, harvest volunteers during elections, and communicate directly using 21st century technology in one-on-one chats and virtual town halls.
Buy-in from legislators will be critical; Colorado state representative James Coleman is a member of the Engage board.