Why are states replacing email with flawed web forms for contacting lawmakers?

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Open States provides a lot of information about state legislatures, from dates and times of hearings to the status of bills to information about your representatives. The thing that users most frequently ask about, though, is legislator contact information. Citizens want to be in touch with the people who represent them!

As part of Team Open States’ efforts, I’ve been working on cleaning up the email addresses we provide. Unfortunately, more and more states are moving away from providing email addresses; instead, they’re asking constituents to use web forms to contact their legislators. We think forcing communication to go through contact forms is the wrong move. Email use is a more basic skill than navigating a website, and it isn’t buggy. We wonder how many states have carefully cross-browser tested their contact forms to ensure it works equally well on older versions of Internet Explorer and current versions of Google Chrome.

SC state legislature contact form
South Carolina’s forms are not compatible with Google Chrome.

In addition, forms are more likely to pose accessibility hurdles for the visually impaired — especially those with captchas, which are common. For example, take a look at South Dakota’s contact form below.

Captcha on South Dakota's legislative contact form

In some states where contact forms are encouraged, email addresses are published in other locations, such as legislators’ personal web pages — and Team Open States could use your help finding them! Listed below are the states where one or more chambers makes finding legislative email addresses difficult. If you’re interested in helping us gather this information from the dispersed sources where it’s available, please get in touch here or email us.

States with a significant number of missing email addresses:

* California * Idaho * Georgia * New Jersey * Indiana * Michigan * Ohio * Pennsylvania * Puerto Rico * South Carolina * South Dakota * Texas * Washington

We hope that states will continue to make it easy for constituents to communicate directly with their representatives by prominently posting email addresses. Open States is doing what we can to make email addresses available where we find them.