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Ask Slashdot: How Can I Get Through To a Politician By E-mail?

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the breaking-through-the-sea-of-spam dept.

Communications 204

wytcld writes "Sending an individually-written e-mail to my state senator resulted in an automated response saying that since she receives hundreds of e-mails a day, there might be no personal response, but please don't take that to mean she hasn't read my e-mail. So I contacted her again suggesting that was a pretty poor answer. Most of the e-mails she receives are mass mailings coordinated by various interest group websites. Why doesn't she put those to the side, I asked, and prioritize response to individual e-mails from constituents who've taken the time to actually write? Her response? She often can't tell the difference at first, so spends time drafting responses to the first instances of group e-mail spam, and gets diverted from responding to those who really write her. Are there tools out there which a politician can use to identify the incoming group-think blasts and put them to to side? It's easy enough to imagine sorting by repeated content or headers, if I ran the mail server, but I'm looking for packages already out there that a state-level representative, with no staff to speak of, might use to cut through the mess and prioritize communication with constituents who care enough about an issue to draft their own thoughts."

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president@whitehouse.gov (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39756811)

Then let him forward it

Paper and Pen (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39756815)

These two devices solve literally every problem you are trying to solve.

Re:Paper and Pen (0)

del_diablo (1747634) | about 2 years ago | (#39756899)

I actually agree with this one. Just getting a normal mail thats not printed is so rare these days, that it usually means its always read.

Re:Paper and Pen (2)

Dahamma (304068) | about 2 years ago | (#39757135)

Maybe opened by someone, but probably not the addressee. Every random charity, lobbyist organization, petition, interest group, etc. runs constant letter writing campaigns. I have written a few over the years for a couple causes (it's usually a more-or-less form letter where they encourage you to add your own details and of course sign your own name), but I generally wonder whether it's worth my time, as I know there are 1000's of others doing the same thing. And that's usually just to state representatives.

Still, I would imagine it's at least most likely to get opened and scanned by an intern than an email, which is probably auto-replied and deleted without any human intervention. So in that sense, yeah, if you are going to take the time to try, it's definitely the better bet...

Re:Paper and Pen (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757173)

The world would have fewer politicians if they opened all their letters themselves. Especially the hated ones. ;)

Re:Paper and Pen (4, Insightful)

swalve (1980968) | about 2 years ago | (#39757309)

I've done work in a state rep's office, and they do get a lot of mail. But as far as I've ever seen, there weren't stacks of form letters. They have a person who reads the correspondence and who answers the phone calls, summarizes much of it, and forwards the summary to the rep. So letter writing is probably the most effective.

I've never seen the email, but I imagine it is a nightmare. I have seen the faxes, and they are hilarious.

Re:Paper and Pen (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#39757479)

Exactly.

The story writer starts with the naive assumption the the representative reads ANY email, that isn't first scanned and categorized by a couple layers of minions. Then moves to the assumption that there is some trick that will get his topic before the representative's eyeballs bypassing all the layers.

Totally lost on the OP is the idea that their "special issue" is no more important than those from any other constituent, and the best they have a right to is having their missive filed and counted in the appropriate pro/con pile regarding any issue.

Maybe a succinct email speaking to a specific piece of legislation referencing (and quoting) detailed points in a calm analytical way gets picked out by a staffer as particularly instructive and gets passed to the rep.

Any rambling rants get nowhere.

Any threats will get attention, but not the kind you want.

But the "fer it"/"agin it" letters get counted and are automated replies, not necessarily in that order. They've had their say. And that's all they deserve.

Any foolproof way of getting thru the layer of flak catchers wouldn't survive being public knowledge for very long. Why should any one persons view take precedence over the that of other constituents?

Re:Paper and Pen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39756969)

+1

Everything I have read is paper mail gets much more impact than email, especially in these days of spam and mass emailings.

Re:Paper and Pen (4, Funny)

davester666 (731373) | about 2 years ago | (#39757037)

...hold the paper against the person, then quickly stab through the paper with the pen

The paper acts as a shield to prevent blood getting on you.

Re:Paper and Pen (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 years ago | (#39757055)

This does have a much higher probability of working than email does, but it only works with politicians below a certain level of prominence. You can definitely reach your small-town mayor by sending a letter by mail, and may be able to reach a mid-sized city mayor, state congressperson, maybe even your U.S. congressperson.

Sending a letter stops working once you're talking about writing to your governor, a senator, the president, the secretary of state, etc., though. They have people open and read their mail for them, and it mostly just gets sorted into the appropriate tally marks (we received n++ letters against the Foo Bill, next).

That has not been my experience. (1)

khasim (1285) | about 2 years ago | (#39757197)

Maybe things in Washington state are different but even our senators reply to written mail.

Maybe not to the President, for all of your elected officials below him it does seem to work.

Re:That has not been my experience. (1)

Fjandr (66656) | about 2 years ago | (#39757487)

Cathy McMorris Rodgers doesn't (Representative; not even a Senator), at least not in a form bearing more than the slightest resemblance to the content of the letter.

Her offices send back position pieces which address the topic, at best, in the most general of terms, but make clear that the person drafting the response did no more than skim the letter for key terms.

Re:That has not been my experience. (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#39757515)

Maybe they do, and maybe they don't. And maybe you mistook the cleverly worded form letter for something personal.

My experience with Washington State is that big campaign contributors get their letters read at a higher rate than Joe Voter.

Or get involved.... (1)

isopropanol (1936936) | about 2 years ago | (#39757061)

When the staffers (or politician themselves) recognize you as someone involved in the community, it's very easy to get a word to the politicians. Go to events and bend their ear about your issue when the time is right, but not in front of the camera, and know who's on which committee... If it's in their portfolio they'll be much more interested.

I talk to my MLA (like state congressman) and the MLA from the next riding over and my MP (like federal congressman) about issues several times a year. Under a previous provincial administration this has landed me a meeting with the Attourney General and Premier (like State Governor), as well as the leader of the official opposition.

Re:Paper and Pen (1, Redundant)

snowgirl (978879) | about 2 years ago | (#39757081)

These two devices solve literarily every problem you are trying to solve.

TFTFY

Correspondence ranked according to medium used (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 2 years ago | (#39757177)

These two devices solve literally every problem you are trying to solve.

Exactly.

From the article: "Why doesn't she put those to the side, I asked, and prioritize response to individual e-mails from constituents who've taken the time to actually write?" The truth of the matter is that sending an email is *not* considered taking the time to *write*, and there is some truth to this perspective. An email is far more convenient than a handwritten letter.

Correspondence gets ranked according to the medium used and level of personalization:
Personal handwritten letter (most highly valued correspondence)
Personal typed/printed letter
Personal email (low valued correspondence)
Mass paper mailing
Mass emailing (a virtually ignored corresondence)

If you want to be taken more seriously you need to act accordingly. I realize this seems completely unfair, and in some ways it is - ideas are not being evaluated completely on their merits, but people who get lots of mail need to prioritize it somehow. Taking into consideration the effort that the sender put in is somewhat rational, it demonstrates a more strongly held opinion and a more motivated individual (i.e. a more likely to show up on election day). Plus politicians also consider that greater effort suggests more people who feel the same way but were deterred by the effort (i.e. handwritten gets a far larger likely voter multiplier than email).

Do whatever you can to make yourself seen as an independent more likely voter. The only thing that matters to politicians (well those that intend to run again) is independent voters. People who don't vote can be ignored. People who are loyal members of the politician's part can be ignored, they have that person's vote. People who are loyal members of the other party can be ignored, they can't get that person's vote. Only independent voters and disloyal party members are important.

Re:Paper and Pen (1)

matunos (1587263) | about 2 years ago | (#39757357)

If you include a check, it'll help your chances even more.

Re:Paper and Pen (4, Insightful)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 2 years ago | (#39757377)

Yep. Send an actual physical letter, or try a phone call.

Or, better yet, if you have a major complaint about a topical issue that's in the news, write something good and send it to your local newspaper as a Letter to the Editor.

I mostly received form letters in response to most queries I made, but a couple times when my letter to the local paper was published, I got personalized letters dealing with details of the specific issue from both my local state senator and my U.S. Congressman sent to me in response.

The more public the method of communication, the more likely you'll get a response. And choose a method that is less likely for thousands of other people to use.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Re:Paper and Pen (1)

matunos (1587263) | about 2 years ago | (#39757477)

Politicians get large amounts of email, and they have no way of knowing if it's from their constituents. A letter with a return address showing you're a constituent has a much better chance of being read.

But keep in mind that you're not the only constituent. If you want to ensure you get personal attention directly from your politician in a timely manner, open your checkbook and get some facetime with her.

Re:Paper and Pen (1)

GLMDesigns (2044134) | about 2 years ago | (#39757585)

The chance of getting a personal reply approaches zero. How can they possibly respond to all their mail? What would be good would be for them to put up polls and get yes/no answers on the topic at hand. Of course care would have to be taken to prevent people gaming the system - but that could be accomplished rather easily.

Re:Paper and Pen (1)

sixtyeight (844265) | about 2 years ago | (#39757733)

These two devices solve literally every problem you are trying to solve.

Then by that reasoning, chiseled stone tablets ought to carry a lot more weight!

You need to use an email attachment (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39756829)

Scan and attach the big fat check you will be sending to her reelection campaign.

Re:You need to use an email attachment (2, Insightful)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 2 years ago | (#39756849)

This is it. After Citizen's United, they finally took off the mask and said 'pay us or no representation for you' out in the open.

Re:You need to use an email attachment (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39756889)

The problem existed long before Citizens United. Labor unions have always had the power to bundle and steer untold sums of money. The union lobbyists have always been able to attach a fat check in exchange for an unnecessary sweetheart pork project.

Re:You need to use an email attachment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757553)

The problem existed long before Citizens United. Labor unions have always had the power to bundle and steer untold sums of money. The union lobbyists have always been able to attach a fat check in exchange for an unnecessary sweetheart pork project.

Really...only labor unions have used this tactic...how about big business or the overly wealthy. You sir must be a republican lackey or an idiot to think that only labor unions have used this tactic. Oh and spoken like a true AC troll.

Re:You need to use an email attachment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757363)

Yea, liberals just don't seem to like that first amendment free speech thing.
So much so Pelosi wants to ammend the Constitution to remove the first Amendment.
http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/First-Amendment-Pelosi-free/2012/04/20/id/436612

If you can't express winning opinions, I guess your next step is censorship.

Re:You need to use an email attachment (1)

matunos (1587263) | about 2 years ago | (#39757501)

Point of order: Citizen's United was not related to directly funding politicians' campaigns. You have send that check to their Super PAC.

Or put in the subject header... (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 2 years ago | (#39757711)

'I'll get you ______ votes', where ______ is a critical number of votes the politician needs to turn over to be ahead of his closest rival in the next election.

Send them a $2,300 reelection donation (4, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | about 2 years ago | (#39756835)

And they will respond to your questions.

Not a bad idea (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about 2 years ago | (#39757141)

The idea of attaching something that costs you something is actually a good idea. As slashdot knows, the only viable (but impossible to implement) cure for spam would be to require postage charges on all e-mail. But in this case it is possible to implement. here's two possible suggestions
1) send a dollar. the dollar does not need to go to the congressman, but instead could go to general revenues or perhaps a reserve for general capitol hill IT support.

2) certify your e-mail address with a trusted proxy sender. For example, the democratic and republican parties could vouch that your e-mail is legit. They would want to do this honestly because if they were dishonest the'd lose the privilege. The way you do this is to give people e-mail accounts from which to send. They can establish those e-mail accounts using visa card numbers or by snail mail or any way that would filter out mass spam.

Re:Send them a $2,300 reelection donation (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757179)

Politicians respond to their constituents.

Please note "constituent" rarely equals "citizen" or "voter" in that politician's district.

True story: Shortly before this country was misled into a disastrous, expensive, deadly, and illegal adventurism, I called the local office of my US Representative. A human-like organism answered the phone and quietly operated the device after asking a few questions to identify me. I gave several reasons why my country should not engage in the seemingly inevitable but completely optional upcoming disaster. When I finished talking, it thanked me.

Shortly, I received a form letter
a) thanking me for expressing my opinion,
b) excusing the politician from giving a personal response because he receives so very many letters and calls,
c) acknowledging that many people have strong opinions about war,
d) explaining, in high political speak, that he didn't give a shit about what the little people thought and was proud to stand with his President.

Use paper. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39756837)

Duh.

Phone (4, Interesting)

thestuckmud (955767) | about 2 years ago | (#39756867)

Many politicians are overwhelmed by email campaigns at the moment, and are paying more attention to phone calls. At least that's what my politically connected friends tell me.

Re:Phone (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757389)

And if you're dealing with federal politicians (as opposed to, say, state or local representatives) it's still highly unlikely you'll get to talk to your politician directly.
You will probably at least get to talk to a staffer, and depending on (in no particular order):

1) Your tone
2) The call volume of the day
3) The congressperson's instructions

you may even have a decent five or ten minute conversation with said staffer. My current congressman is an odious, obnoxious, and unfortunately nationally well-known Populist-but-Fuck-the-Proles sort, and his staffers reflect that. His predecessor was a hyper-circumspect test the waters sort, and getting her staffers to even admit that a contentious vote was coming up-- much less her position-- was impossible. The senator I disagree with more (and thus call more often) has surprisingly polite and talkative staffers... but he's pretty high ranking, so he might have a bigger staff just for that.

inefficient (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 2 years ago | (#39756869)

She could be smart, and just copy/paste the draft she JUST wrote for all the other mass mailings she gets. That way, she has an answer to them, AND has time to answer individual email...

Easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39756881)

Print your email out and mail it via USPS, or call her and read it to her (or, more likely, to her aide).

Here's the bottom line: the more you care, the more she'll care. When an advocacy group pushes their members to all send a form email, a lot of them will, because it doesn't take much effort. Your senator realizes this, and mostly ignores these. But if you go to the effort to write a letter yourself, and the additional effort to mail it, you've signaled that this matters to you more than the people who simply clicked send on a pre-written email.

If you can't be bothered to mail or call, though, you're signaling that it's not that important to you.

Problems : (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | about 2 years ago | (#39756891)

The Obama adminstration actually solves this problem, as I understand it. Here's what I know about their process :
    1. Somehow they filter the spawn and mass mailings
    2. A group of staffers actually DO read and respond to every email message with a reasoned reply taken from some kind of script consistent with Obama's position.
    3. A small number of these messages are printed out and the President does read this. I think they are chosen randomly or perhaps a single exceptional message sneaks through directly.

With all this said, just because you email Obama, even if you are the smartest person on the planet, it doesn't mean he will pay any attention. Now, if you are a rich or powerful person, then you might get a meeting.

Re:Problems : (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39756989)

This is the way all of my representatives have always handled it.

I always get a response to a legitimate email. It just takes a month or so to get it, and it's always a scripted response applied to the closest relevant subject.

I guess I've always just hoped that at least they get counted. For topic X, Y emails approve, Z emails disapprove.

Re:Problems : (1)

matunos (1587263) | about 2 years ago | (#39757385)

So that's why none of my spawn has made it to the President. Curses!

Even better method (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757687)

write your letter in the comment field of a large check for his campaign fund.

Forget it (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 2 years ago | (#39756895)

Use conventional snail-mail. Make it obvious it is not a mass-mailing. Then you have a good chance that at least a staffer will read it. Really quite obvious. This is one area where the spammer scum have ruined email.

Re:Forget it (5, Insightful)

dwye (1127395) | about 2 years ago | (#39757133)

This is one area where the spammer scum have ruined email.

Actually, this was ruined for email before there even WAS email. Robert Heinlein wrote a short book on how to influence politicians, and he laid out all the steps. Basically, the less you care, the less they care, so in the "good old days" a telegram beat a hand-written note, which beat a typed note; signing a petition or sending a pre-written message just makes the signer feel good, but these are completely ignored. An email is almost identical to the pre-written message that some group wants everyone to sign and send in; at best it is the typed message, except that you haven't bothered to expend your precious toner on it.

Secondly, if you belong to an ORGANIZED group, mention it. Even better if you are an officer of it, and mention that. Even a Ladies Sewing Circle member beats the lone crank; the member can convince her group to vote her way, while the lone writer cannot convince anyone.

Seriously, people, this stuff is obvious if you think about it.

Different Experience (1)

roninmagus (721889) | about 2 years ago | (#39756901)

My experience has been very different. I've emailed one of senator's (in this case Bob Corker) office twice in the past. I did receive back the auto-response as you say. In the first case, I was asking him not to support an internet tax of some kind that was cropping up. In the second case, I was asking him why he did not support the DREAM Act which I felt was a good idea. However, in both instances, I received back an email a week or two later answering what I was asking for. I have no idea if it came from him directly or a staff member, and in at least one case I didn't like the response, but at least I got an answer.

Use Sen. Weiner's technique (0)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#39756905)

Attach a picture of your weiner. You might actually get some sex out of it before she fucks you in Congress.

You can't (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 2 years ago | (#39756907)

They have their official politician email address that you used, and that is it. If you want a personal response from your politician, you need to contact their staff and see if you can arrange to meet them in person. In fact, there are generally rules prohibiting politicians from using other email addresses for official business (remember the Bush white house lost GOP email controversy?)

Put group-think aside? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39756917)

Hopefully you mean "consolidate and apply a weight" (based on the size of the group) to organized email efforts instead of "put them to to[the] side." Our representatives, after all, are supposed to "represent" their populations while not stepping on minorities.

Re:Put group-think aside? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39756973)

No, I think he means, "how do I make sure my special snowflake of a message gets through and is treated with the utmost priority, while everybody else's stupid opinions are ignored?"

And the answer to that is lobbying. Hope he has millions of dollars to spend to become his own special interest group.

The unpopular opinion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39756919)

The people cutting and pasting mail campaigns from various anti-this-or-that websites have just as much right to be heard as the person who wishes to spend 20 minutes typing an email that's not a cut& pasted form letter.

The "special interests" aren't contacting your representatives by email, she takes those phone calls and meetings in person. YOUR burning missive does not have any special weight simply because you took the time to construct a poorly worded, ill-advised rant about your favorite pet conspiracy theory. What makes you think you have the right to jump to the head of the line?

Welcome to democracy, ain't it grand?

I don't get it (1)

ksemlerK (610016) | about 2 years ago | (#39756921)

On the federal level, I just get form letters that very often have little to do with anything that I was writing about. However, on the state level, my representitive, (Joe Schmick), always responds directly to my emails that I send him. He's done a great job representing the 9th district of WA state, and even though I disagreed with him on the legalization of marijuana for taxation purposes, (I am pro, he is nay), I will still vote for him because he seems to care about representing all of his constituents, and actually bothers personally responding to my inquiries..

Write a letter instead? (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | about 2 years ago | (#39756929)

I know it doesn't fulfill the criterion of helping a politician manage her email but, in terms of "getting through" to politicians, the MPs in the UK with whom I've spoken have said that they treat written correspondence with the following priority (low to, well, not so low):

  • mass / cut and paste email
  • individually written email
  • typed letter
  • handwritten letter

These were casual conversations, rather than anything official, and were with only three (then) MPs, but it seems that, for real reaction, the effort of a handwritten letter was needed. (Sadly, it was at an event in the House of Commons a few years ago, and I can't remember which MPs they were...)

Picture (1)

pooh666 (624584) | about 2 years ago | (#39756931)

If naked I am sure someone will knock on your door.

if you care... (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | about 2 years ago | (#39756943)

If you want to get through to your local politician, show up at their district office. If you care enough to go to their office, you'll at least get a few minutes with a staff person.

Politicians do get tons of emails, and it is functionally impossible to tell the difference between a constituent sending an individual e-mail on their own and a constituent paid to send an individual e-mail.

I've visited my representatives many times, sent individual emails and been part of organized lobbying efforts. The more you talk with your representatives, the more they will respond to and respect you. Our system is very slow and sometimes very frustrating, but it is possible to get things done. You will get personal emails back after the automated responses, but it may be months later. If they're doing their job well, they're going to figure out what stance they should take and not simply agree with you.

Re:if you care... (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 2 years ago | (#39757163)

Keep in mind that in many states a state-level pol won't have a district office.

In Michigan it is illegal for a State-level politician to spend public money anywhere but his Lansing office. The Lansing office budget is quite limited, so that very few of the 148 State Legislators even try to have anything resembling a District Office. The only one I ever saw who got around it was Steve Tobocman, who borrowed space from a friend on the County Commission (Ilona Varga, who was coincidentally also the only County Commissioner to have a local office), and somehow managed to convince the State House to let one of his staffers spend almost all her time there. He's been term-limited, but his successor (Rashida Tlaib) runs the same office. Other pols have a desk they declare the District Office, but it isn't staffed regularly.

Use Snailmail instead... (1)

dryriver (1010635) | about 2 years ago | (#39756949)

Write your letter on a computer. Print it out. Sign it with blue ink. Then fold the letter carefully, and mail it via registered mail. Make sure you have your contact details like your email address in the top part of the letter. Chances of your letter being read are now dramatically better than if writing an email. Remember that these people get hundreds of thousands of emails a day. And that only a few - maybe with a heading that stands out from the crowd - actually get read. Good luck.

Use hard copy instead (1)

wattersa (629338) | about 2 years ago | (#39756963)

Email to most State politicians is pointless. Between Nigerian scammers, interest groups, astroturfing, spam, automated "news alerts" from whoever, links to blogs, etc., the signal gets lost in the noise. Send a fax or a letter instead, that way an actual person will read your correspondence and appropriately categorize it. Or try calling them.

Case example: in the early to mid 2000's, my State Senator turned Congressional representative, Jackie Speier (D--Hillsborough, CA), was very responsive to actual letters and either dictated or at least approved multiple responses. The level of detail was, I must admit, incredible. OCD? Probably, but I'd rather have an OCD politician who responds to inquiries or policy comments than not. My current Federal rep in a different district was fairly responsive to use of his online email form, in which he provides categories (help with an agency, policy comments, etc.). Calling him re SOPA also worked.

Being a member of some of these interest groups... (1)

Pluvius (734915) | about 2 years ago | (#39756971)

...I see a problem with filtering email that you may not have noticed.

Let's ignore all of the cynical "people who only communicate by email don't deserve to have a voice in government" responses and assume that email in itself is fine, it just depends on whether or not the email in question is a robocall. The problem here is that it's not a binary question. The interest groups I'm familiar with allow part or all of the email to be personalized; for example, a mass email protesting attacks on women's rights may start out with some boilerplate stuff but give an individual woman a space to relate her own personal experience with contraception or abortion. Whatever filtering method you use has to recognize this issue to be effective.

Rob

When Paul Martin was Prime Minister of Canada (1)

kawabago (551139) | about 2 years ago | (#39756979)

I found it took almost exactly 48 hours from the time I pressed send and when he would be on tv using the sound bite I sent him. It's really easy to do if ya rite good.

Re:When Paul Martin was Prime Minister of Canada (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | about 2 years ago | (#39757453)

Yeah, rite..

Move to a smaller state (3, Funny)

retroworks (652802) | about 2 years ago | (#39756991)

In Vermont, you can reach your senators just by shouting loudly enough. In Wyoming, they use smoke signals.

Re:Move to a smaller state (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757121)

If you've been to Cheyenne, it's surrounded by windmills, which makes the smoke signals unintelligible..
explains quite a bit really.

In my state, you find out the secret address (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39756995)

One thing that is done in my state, I found out, is that they give different people different addresses. The public at large gets a form on their website or address A, both of which actually go to their assistant (the representative only see it if the assistant forwards it to them). Then, their business card's address sends you to their primary address, which is the default one that they send from. Then they have the secret address that they only give out to people they deem important. Note that all of these addresses all use the domain name (the part after the "@") of the General Assembly.

This whole thing was (should have been) blown open when an FOIA request revealed that some of the emails sent by a representative was from a different address than his official one but used the GA domain name. This surprised some people, but not too many. But, it was never mentioned by the newspapers or TV. So, I asked a friend of mine that works at the GA and another that is a lobbyist, both said that everybody who does anything down there knows this.

Incidentally, they also have 3 phone numbers: the switchboard, their assistant's number (which is on the business card) and their direct number.

Getting your email noticed (5, Funny)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 2 years ago | (#39757009)

There are a few simple steps you can take to guarantee your email will stand out above the background noise...

1) Greet her by her full name - if you can do the research to find some endearing nickname only used by her friends, so much the better!

2) Mention the names of her husband and kids - show you're not like the other constituents. YOU take the time to get to know her!

3) Include photo attachments of her house (both in Washington and in your home state), her car, and her husband's car - again, this shows you care about this communication enough to put some time into learning more about her!

4) Describe, specifically and in the strongest terms possible, the issue you care about - getting to know her is nice, but don't let your message get lost in all the friendly banter!

5) In closing, be friendly! Mention that she or her family might run into you sometime!

6) (optional) If you can get hold of her personal cell phone number, follow up a few times with friendly phone calls! Script them, though - be sure to follow the steps I've listed above. But remember, she's a busy person; so call when she's more likely to be free - late at night is best.

Re:Getting your email noticed (2)

phorest (877315) | about 2 years ago | (#39757065)

Stalk much?

Re:Getting your email noticed (1)

7-Vodka (195504) | about 2 years ago | (#39757103)

w0000sh!

Re:Getting your email noticed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757137)

7)Mention you enjoy carrying a concealed weapon and/or working with explosives.

Re:Getting your email noticed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757215)

This guy. This guy gets it.

technology: procmail (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757039)

Shouldn't be too hard to figure out who the interest groups are, then dump them in a separate folder. Possibly for a hapless intern to get frustrated with writing summaries thereof. Really now, people who put themselves in positions where efficient communications handling is essential should have the skills, though most don't even know what a header is nevermind not to top-post. Time to learn, buncha slackers.

Anyway, procmail is just one way. SIEVE support on your IMAP server would be another. Plenty mail clients have custom filtering, there exist toolsets to run commands on an imap, again possibly in conjunction with procmail, and maybe there already exists a GUI to ease such use for the lesser educatable beings among us, or else it is easily whipped up.

If rules won't do, then train a bayes filter (like spamassassin) on an interest group mass-mailings set and have it dump them in a separate (non-spam) folder. You can use the same technology for multiple targets, not just spam/non-spam. I haven't actually tried but it shouldn't be too hard to adapt, the idea is the same.

Work this out and offer your services to your representatives, for a modest fee. Should be a nice weekend-earner. Royalties to the usual address please.

Or use the Turn It In service (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757151)

Isnt the whole point of that service to detect when multiple submissions are fancy copy pasta?

Make Big Brother work for you.

simple (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 2 years ago | (#39757057)

How Can I Get Through To a Politician By E-mail?

Print it out and enclose a check for $250,000.

Re:simple (1)

jfengel (409917) | about 2 years ago | (#39757375)

You need to ensure that the check is written to their Super PAC, rather than to the candidate or to their campaign committee. The politician him/herself is forbidden from taking more than token gifts (under $20, IIRC). The campaign committee is limited by the FEC to $2,500 (though you can donate twice, once for the "primaries" (even if they are incumbent and face no opponent) and again for the general election.

Checks bigger than the limits get returned. You can, however, dump as much money as you like into "unrelated" political action committees which are "forbidden" from communicating with the candidate directly. However, you can be pretty sure that a check of that size would cause a completely unrelated, totally out-of-the-blue phone call from the candidate's staff, at which time you can ask if perhaps the candidate has a few free minutes the next time they're in tow.

$250k actually gets you more than a few minutes, but not nearly as much as you might think. Presidential candidates are going to raise a billion dollars this year and a quarter-mill gets you not much more than a grip-and-grin. House candidates need to raise several million, and $250k gets you noticed, though you'll find that it does you a lot less good than you might imagine unless they're on a powerful committee. For powerful committee chairmen, $250k will get you noticed, but it won't get you more than lunch.

Unique doesn't equal 'more important' (1)

Tommy Bologna (2431404) | about 2 years ago | (#39757067)

What makes you think your personally crafted message deserves more attention than my message that happens to agree with many other people? Do we all need to send unique messages to suit your sense of democracy? Is your opinion more valuable because you've got the free time to write a personal note? So the busy fellow merits a diminished voice in democracy?

Which state are you in? (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 2 years ago | (#39757069)

This is quite possibly the most important piece of information in your question. Most states have totally non-professional legislatures. This means that even Senators have a single, part-time staffer, and are supposed to have full-time jobs. Many states are proud of this, so if you're in TX or NH you're just screwed. Cali, NY, and my home-state of Michigan aren't that bad; but most states are officially still of the opinion that the best way to avoid tyranny is bar Legislators from working more then 20 hours a week, three months out of the year.

In general the solution is call your State Senator's office. It shows a certain level of commitment to your position, because you actually took the time to call, and spent Cell-phone minutes. OTOH lots of people send email blasts and promptly forget what they were for.

I strongly suspect the main issue here is that a) the State Senator in question isn't terribly tech-savvy, b) the State Senate is under-funded for the reasons I gave in the opening paragraph, or c) a and b.

Like any other way (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#39757071)

Include a large donation with it. If not, forget it, they don't care.

Sexually awkward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757089)

Accuse him of being a priest and pedophile.
Plain and simple.

Clean his tubes (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 2 years ago | (#39757095)

In order to do that you will have to clean his tubes first ... then he'll probably give you his disposable cell phone number anyway, making the e-mail somewhat pointless.

Find the local staffer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757113)

There is likely a staff person physically closer to where you live that has an office for dealing with more with local constituent issues. Find this person's name, and hopefully, email. Make a case as a local constituent to the staffer. I received a very thoughtful and non-standard response to an issue this way, perhaps written by a staffer as well (you can never know) but it sure sounded like someone spent some time in researching my issue.

Yes and no (1)

fsterman (519061) | about 2 years ago | (#39757193)

As noted, emails are essentially worthless to representatives. PCATt [qdap.net] attempts to address this, but it's basically an academic data/response coding system being shoe-horned into a general purpose product. PCAT doesn't get that legislative staffers are not research assistants. It might work within some major bureaucracies that have departments dedicated to handling public requests (like FOIA) or lots of solicitations for public comment (like the FCC) but it's waaaaay to complicated for occasional use.

I think that a simple challenge-response system like what your congress person set-up above is a good start, at least they are trying. I don't know how Gmail's priority and auto-tagging features would handle the load, but it is probably the best system you can find that an unpaid poly-sci intern could operate.

In terms of just communicating to your rep, if you really want to make a difference, I would suggest you arrange a face-to-face meeting either in their office during the legislative session or over coffee when they are back in your district. After asking around about their use of polling and feedback analysis, they mostly told me that their polling happens on the campaign trail while knocking on doors. Most state-level reps (at least around here) are not the blood sucking parasites they are made out to be, even the rich ones are doing it because they want to make a difference, not because they get any actual power.

Re:Yes and no (1)

fsterman (519061) | about 2 years ago | (#39757343)

And I would like to add that you shouldn't bother going to speak with the rep unless you are trying to inform them about a topic. Going there to change their mind on an issue is generally a fool's errand. Telling them that cutting education is a bad idea or pitching a new legislative strategy isn't worth anyone's time: they do this for a living, their position has been formed by hundreds of hours of wrestling with the issue.

There is a big difference between explaining why they are unable to legislate file sharing or the relative harm of DDOS attacks and blanket statements about funding or taxes.

Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757255)

You people make it sound like politicians actually care about you.

Deep down you know they wouldn't cross the street to piss on you if you were on fire. (This is esp. true if you live in the UK.)

Do you want your State Sen wasting time on emaiL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757259)

I suppose if you are a GOP gov't is evil type, then , yes, if the politician is responding to email, they ain't doin anything else, which allows the magic of free enterprise to work.
On the other hand, if you actually expect your State Senator to be working hard - and at least mine, here in MA, have a lot of issues to deal with - then why would you expect them to respond to your email ?
I mean, would you actually want your State Senator to spend many hours a week reading random emails, many of which are probably poorly phrased or hard to understand , or full of factual errors, or advocating things that are silly (gold standard) ?

Get a Grip
You really want something done, get off your a**, form a group, and raise some noise

Otherwise, stop whining

steve.ballmer@ceo.microsoft.com (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757265)

Anyone know this freak?

Sesame Streeters ? ? ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757273)

"Why doesn't she put those to the side, I asked, and prioritize response to individual e-mails from constituents who've taken the time to actually write?"

The real question is, what douchetard believes they ever listen to their constituents, when their only true constituents are the lobbyists?

The Sesame Street Choice

On Sesame Street, happiness prevails and analytical thinking is always to be avoided.

Whose wife was behind Sesame Street? The same fellow who wants to end Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and has worked to offshore as many American jobs as possible over the past thirty years.

The Sesame Street choice: either the vile sleazoid and financial parasite, Romney of Wall Street, or the pseudo-nice guy and rightwinger, Obama of Wall Street.

The Sesame Street choice is zero choice ----- zero options!

Sesame Street, as it turns out, isn’t our street nor the street we wished we lived on, but Wall Street posing as “entertainment education.”

Today, mind-altering propaganda is spread forth through “entertainment education” --- when it’s good, you get the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show; but when it’s bad, when it’s really, really bad, you get NCIS (where they flipped reality, spinning it as “conspiracy theory”), FoxFiction, CNN, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, NPR and PBS.

The corporate media’s construction of reality ain’t reality and that’s a fact, Jack! ! !

[I’ll be writing in Bernie Sanders for president this upcoming election. Screw the Sesame Street choice!]

sgt_doom (for some reason it's not logging me in today ???)

Money Talks (1)

jmd (14060) | about 2 years ago | (#39757283)

Try forming a SuperPAC. Just Kidding......

Actually, I think it might be hard to quantify how many *citizens* are heard. Good idea for a Slashdot Poll: How many people on Slashdot can verify personal interaction with their representatives.

Symplicity Voice (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757295)

DISCLAIMER: I work for the company I'm about to plug!

Symplicity (www.symplicity.com) has a product that does just that called VOICE. It's a system for sorting, categorizing, and replying to e-mails sent by constituents to members of congress. We have quite a few senators that use the software already and it's a huge success. Further, we do all the work to set it up, manage the software, support, etc. Have your senator give our sales folks a call. :)

"interest group websites" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757307)

FTA: "interest group websites" and "put to the side."

The sad truth is the ones that pay the bills (interest groups, by and large) get more attention than a mere voter...the proposal is illogocal in the current political climate...as always...

Pen and paper PLUS large check should do it.

NSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757339)

Mention a few key words in an email such as "hijack", "Allah" and "jihad" and the computers in the basement of the NSA will kindly forward it for you to the relevant politicians.

Call and Fax. (1)

DaneM (810927) | about 2 years ago | (#39757369)

Yesterday, I sent in a letter to Wally Herger, who is the Representative for my district. I spoke with the secretary, and informed her that I wanted to send in a thought-out letter. She directed me to their web site, which, as it turns out, was broken (404 after clicking "submit"). Of course, such a submission would likely not be taken note of, but I suspect that telling the person it's coming, and your own email address can help.

Ultimately, though, I ended up asking how to send it in, since email was broken, and she gave me their fax number (which, as it happens was also on the web site). I faxed the letter in, then called to confirm its receipt (including number of pages).

I haven't yet gotten a response from the Representative, and I don't know for certain that I will, but I do suspect that calling ahead, then getting it there by fax, followed-up by calling to verify they received it is a decent way to go. Also, if the submission looks like a well-thought-out and respectful essay or similar at first glance (mine was 4 pages long, and I took pains to make it look fairly professional), it'll probably have less chance of being filed in the "round bin" (A.K.A. trashcan).

Sorry I can't offer any better advice than that; hopefully it helps, though.

In Person (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757427)

If by state senator you mean a person serving in your state senate, not the US Senator representing your state, then your best bet to actually getting through is to go see him/her in person. Politicians at this level often have events where they meet with constituents. These things usually aren't as highly publicized as the town hall meetings where crazies go to scream at US Reps. For example, my US Rep regularly holds meetings with my neighborhood association. There are usually only 10-20 people there and this is a great opportunity to meet him and discuss what is important to you. It is also a great opportunity to hand deliver a personal letter that is more detailed an well-reasoned.

Hand delivering a letter to the senator's office would also likely get your message some attention. If you can visit the office when the senator is actually there you might be able to speak to him/her.

Some messages are likely best delivered to the senator's staff. Find out the name of his/her chief of staff and go and visit that person face-to-face. This is obviously easier if you live in your state's capital.

Objection: asked and answered (1)

matunos (1587263) | about 2 years ago | (#39757431)

So I contacted her again suggesting that was a pretty poor answer. [...] Her response?

So, you sent her an email that resulted in a form response, then you contacted her again through unspecified means and she responded personally to your complaint.

And you're asking for help with what, exactly?

wrong question; bayesian filtering (1)

Onymous Coward (97719) | about 2 years ago | (#39757505)

From the perspective of a constituent, the question doesn't make as much sense, or the idea just seems futile and impractical. From the perspective of the representative it makes much more sense.

How can I, as a representative, sort my email to better identify relevant and actual constituent messages?

Maybe bayesian filtering. The bayesian filters that people use for sorting spam are often actually general purpose with regards to the quality you are judging your messages by. People are saying "spam" or "not spam", but they could be saying instead "relevant constituent message" or "not relevant constituent message".

Re:wrong question; bayesian filtering (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 years ago | (#39757601)

My next business plan:

  • 1. Build a system capable of generating language based on a semantic input (to define the desired message) plus a grammatical model and vocabulary with suitable randomization.
  • 2. Offer my services to spam e-mailers, political action groups and anyone else wanting to get through Bayesian filtering.
  • 3. ????
  • 4. Profit!

Relavant Technologies - Near-Dupe & Clustering (1)

Bill Dimm (463823) | about 2 years ago | (#39757535)

The core technologies for organizing such emails are available in the litigation support industry -- they are used to group related documents/emails together so that lawyers reviewing documents to hunt for evidence can do so more efficiently. One approach is to group "near-duplicates," where documents that share some chunks of text are grouped, which allows detection of form letters or different revisions of the same document. Another option is "conceptual clustering," where the documents are grouped if they are about the same topic (they may not have any actual sentences in common). Unfortunately, all of the software that I know of is designed to analyze documents within a review platform (used by lawyers) rather than plugging into an email system for consumer use, so there would be some work needed to adapt it for the use you are talking about.

Now the shameless plug: my company makes Clustify [cluster-text.com] , which does conceptual clustering and near-dupe detection.

Address to a Specific Staff Member (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757559)

You need to address your communication to the member of the staff that deals with your issue. Political offices are a series of interlocking gate keepers. If you call, write, or email to your local congressman's main contact points there are anywhere from 4 to 8 layers separating you from your member. By layers I mean people who's job it is to blow you off, take a message, or pass your call up the tree. Your best bet is to enter the tree at the highest possible level. Try contacting legislative assistants, legislative directors, chiefs of staff, or schedulers. Any of these people will have direct access to the member and the authority to elevate issues to their attention. You may have to contact the office multiple times to get peoples names, but if your persistent you can go a long way.

you want a prompt and personal response? (1)

bitt3n (941736) | about 2 years ago | (#39757581)

attach some child porn to your email

Details Please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757589)

I write software that 'personalizes' mass emails, but recently many of my mails have been marked as spam.

Please describe in detail why my email was considered spam so I can fix the problem.

yes, there's a very good tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757591)

"Are there tools out there which a politician can use to identify the incoming group-think blasts and put them to to side?"

It's called an Aide.

Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757621)

After carefully editing your message, print a copy. Wrap it around a brick and throw it through your representative's office window.

Posted AC because ....

"How Can I Get Through To a Politician" (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | about 2 years ago | (#39757633)

There, fixed it for you.

Groupthink? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39757647)

I'd not be too quick to put aside boilerplate emails sent by interest groups on behalf of constituents. If such a group has a position aligned with my own, why should I go to the effort of drafting a message myself?

Visit. (3, Insightful)

daemonenwind (178848) | about 2 years ago | (#39757737)

Your problem is that you're engaged in insanity. Meaning, you keep doing the same thing while expecting a different result.

Why does it have to be email? You want to have an impact, but everyone has to come to you?
Fuck off. Seriously. You're not so important that your electronic musings should get special routing - and, if you check all the misguided posts about donations and big-money special interests, you'll see that they're all focused on making you important.

Your problem isn't importance. Which is why I call those other posts misguided. This isn't even a national figure you're talking about, it's a state-level politician. So, as a voting (you do vote, right?) constituent, you're actually important enough. You just can't expect every representative you have to come to your doorstep at a time convenient to you and ask what you want or somehow magically know it's YOU with an Original Thought. That, my friend, is your problem.

If the issue is important to you, take a day off and visit their office. They all have one, and it can't be all that far away if it's in-state. Talk to a staffer; they'll write down your name, address and concerns. If you're in their district, it WILL be seen. Or, if you call ahead, you might just be able to come at a time when your representative can actually sit down and talk to you. Or hell, offer to buy a drink after legislative hours. That is a human being in that office, you know; that sort of thing tends to work with people.

The big problem here is that, much like the occupy retards, you're not willing to get off your ass and engage the system. You expect the system to come to you and listen while you whine. That doesn't work for anything, anywhere. Wait for a town hall meeting and cuss at the microphone with the other cranks.

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