Resources

Register to Vote

How do I register to vote?
Go to https://vote.gov/ and select your state of residence.  This website will take you to the Secretary of State’s office (for your state) where you can find voter registration information.

Where can I find general information about voting?
Check out https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote for voter information.

 

Finding Your Representatives

How do I find my U.S. representatives?
To find your Representatives in the House, go to www.house.gov (Enter your zip code in the upper right-hand corner.)  To find your Senators, go to www.senate.gov (Select your state in the upper left-hand corner.)

How do I find my state representatives? 
Check out the website for your state legislature.  Generally, you should be able to find your state representatives through the website for your state legislature.  For example, if you are a resident of California, check out http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.

How do I find my local representatives?
Generally, you should be able to find the representatives for your county, city, or town by going to the respective website.  Not sure where to get started?  Check out https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials.

 

Tracking Bills

How does a bill become a law?
The old kids’ educational program, “Schoolhouse Rock,” has a very cute and simple musical explanation for the process a bill must take to become law: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Otbml6WIQPo.  A more detailed, grown-up explanation can be found at https://votesmart.org/education/how-a-bill-becomes-law#.WgdLDBNSwnU.

How can I find the text and/or status of a bill?
Bill texts and statuses are available at  https://www.govtrack.us/.  Additionally, some states offer legislation tracking for state bills, such as California at https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/.  You will need to check your state legislature’s website to see if legislation tracking for state bills is available.

How can I find out when specific items, such as bills, are being considered in Congress?
The legislative calendar will show the scheduled hearings, days when Congress is in session, district work days, and holidays.  This can help you plan a visit to your representative’s office, citizen lobbying activities, and what bills to watch.  You can find the legislative calendars at:
Senate: https://www.senate.gov/legislative/calendars.htm
House: http://www.house.gov/legislative/

I’m wondering about my representative’s issue positions and vote history on specific bills.  Where can I find this information?
A variety of information about your representative’s issue positions and vote history (among other information) is available at https://votesmart.org/.

I keep seeing a bunch of complicated, technical terms being referred to in the news.  What do these mean?!
A glossary of common terms can be found at https://votesmart.org/education/how-a-bill-becomes-law#.Wk6Z91Q-cWp (scroll down the page until to get to the Glossary).

 

Video Tutorials

Get Involved

I would like to join a grassroots group.  Where can I find information about grassroots groups in my area?
A variety of grassroots groups and their contact information is available at https://www.indivisible.org/act-locally/.  Just enter tour zip code to see listings for groups near you.

I have something to tell my representatives.  How can I make my voice heard?
There are lots of ways to speak up and share your concerns with your elected officials.  Check out the video about how to get started making your voice heard: https://youtu.be/FuCZmH9LwJ4

I’m not quite sure how I want to get involved yet…  Do you have any tips to help me get started?
Check out this blog post for some ideas to help you start getting involved: https://www.spotstrategies.com/blog/2017/8/16/what-can-i-do

I’m interested in learning more about campaign financing.  Where can I find information about campaign donors, amounts, and more?
Information about campaign financing can be found at https://www.opensecrets.org/

 

There’s an App for That!

Are there any political apps that you would recommend?
Political apps can be very useful, especially if you are on-the-go and need to access information quickly from your smartphone.  Below are a few apps that I’ve found helpful when you need political information at your fingertips.

Countable provides explanations of upcoming bills in plain language, reader-friendly analyses of bills and key issues, and offers an option for users to “take action” to contact their representatives.  Countable is available for both Android and iPhone.

The Interactive Constitution app provides the text of the Constitution and Amendments along with full analyses from scholars, including areas of debate in the interpretation(s).  The Interactive Constitution app is available for both Android and iPhone. 

The Constitution of the U.S.A. app is the complete text of the U.S. Constitution for easy access on your smartphone. Additionally, this app includes the Federalist papers and text from Madison’s journal for additional insights and understanding of our constitutional history.  The Constitution of the U.S.A. app is available for iPhone only.

Avoiding Overwhelm in the Current Political Environment

Is the constant barrage of political news making you anxious?  Are you exhausted at just the thought of getting more politically involved?  Check out our simple tips to help you avoid becoming overwhelmed in the current political environment.

Making Your Voice Heard: Getting Started as a Citizen Lobbyist

Are you new to being politically engaged? Do you want to get more politically active, but are not sure how? This video teaches you how to identify your elected representatives and suggests methods for making your voice heard.

Sharing Your Story: Putting the Personal into Policymaking

Your story can be a powerful way to influence your elected representatives on the issues about which you care most. But how do you get started sharing your story? This short video provides tips to help you share your story with confidence.

Avoiding Political Burnout

Political burnout is a real risk to keeping citizens politically engaged. Part of the strategy for building a sustainable movement to create social and political change is preventing burnout. In this video, we discuss what burnout is and how we can take steps to prevent political burnout among citizens.

Recommended Reading

Nouraini, Sherry.  Social Solutions for Climate Change: How to Inspire Action through Social Media.  Science Outreach Press: Vista, CA.  2016.
An easy-to-follow guide for using social media to promote policy engagement and action.  This guide focuses on message framing and social media content to inspire action, even among people who might be less likely to take action on their own.  This book uses case studies and examples for climate change action, but the same approaches can be applied to other policy issues.

Resource Sheets

 "Teach-In on Tax Day" handout

"Teach-In on Tax Day" handout