What would you like to ask your members of Congress? What would you like to know from your U.S. senators? What questions would you like to hear your U.S. representative answer, in a public town hall?
Today, we’re announcing a new way to ask questions – and get answers – from elected officials, for proactive government transparency and continual public accountability.
AskThem.io is the next major project from the non-profit Participatory Politics Foundation, creators of OpenCongress.org. It’s a free & open-source questions-and-answers platform with every U.S. elected official, and any verified Twitter account.
AskThem is like a version of the White House’s “We The People” petition platform, but for over 142,000 elected officials nationwide. Non-profit and non-partisan, with open data for informed communities.
Here’s how AskThem works:
What would you like to ask your members of Congress?
- Anyone can ask a question to any elected official or verified Twitter account.
- People sign-on to questions they support, voting them up and circulating them like online petitions.
- When a question reaches a pre-set threshold, AskThem delivers it to the recipient and encourages a public response.
Over 66 elected officials nationwide have already signed-on as verified responders on AskThem, to reply to popular questions from their constituents. Public comment forums on questions with responses keep the conversation going, with social sharing for greater accountability. It’s a free new tool for geographically-distributed groups to surface their issues, demonstrate their support, and organize to “whip-count” their representatives.
Here are some of the unique public-benefit features of AskThem for continual, structured dialogue with the people who represent you:
- AskThem has access to official government data for the most U.S. elected officials of any open-source website: federal, state, county, and municipal levels of government.
- For the first time in an open-source website, visitors can simply enter their street address to see everyone who represents them, down to the city council level. Incredibly, this has never existed before – now it does, thanks to our data partners, the outstanding Google Civic Information API and the Democracy Map community #opendata project, as well as our own custom-gathered data. For example, see our page for Philadelphia city government, with more cities rolling out continually.
- For the first time in an open-source civic engagement website, AskThem integrates open government data, to inform good questions with context. For example, AskThem brings in city council agendas and key vote information, to make it easier to ask timely & productive questions of any elected official. In this way, AskThem can be used for crowdsourced ongoing Q&A.
With today’s launch, we’re also announcing that Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes), of MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes“, has agreed to lead the way in responding to popular questions each month on AskThem. Go ahead, ask Chris anything. He’ll be joined by other verified Twitter accounts, including the band OK Go (@OKGo) and more political-media figures to be rolled-out. You can start petitions on AskThem to any company, government agency, or celebrity with a verified Twitter account.
AskThem was developed with charitable support from the Knight Foundation‘s Tech 4 Engagement initiative. Use AskThem to contact all of your elected officials, free & non-profit, on The Day We Fight Back coalition action against mass domestic surveillance, this Tuesday Feb. 11th. Elected officials at any level are encouraged to sign up for a free account to be a leader in responsive government.