Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.
Lucas Dailey is a UX designer and Chief Innovation Officer at political social network MyMaryland.net. You can follow him on Twitter @lucasdailey.
The mechanism for citizen interaction with government doesn’t start and end at the ballot box. An essential goal of our fight for greater government openness and transparency is to give citizens’ opinions greater power. For government to be responsive it must have a fast, easy means to understand how constituents feel about any given issues. Ultimately, government itself is a relationship between the institutions that constitute a polity and its citizens.
MyMaryland.net wants to bridge the gap between voters and their representatives because we believe people’s voices matter. MyMaryland.net connects verified Maryland voters with their elected officials in democracy’s first 24/7 online Town Hall.
Participation: a two-sided problem
One of the keys to a vibrant representative democracy is an informed and engaged citizenry. Yet only 10% of Americans contact their elected officials between elections. We can do better by lowering the hurdles to participate and raising the political value of opinions.
Members of Congress get hundreds or thousands of emails every day. It takes a considerable amount of staff resources to separate constituents from non-constituents, and when they’re finally separated only a very small percentage of messages are from actual voters in their districts.
With MyMaryland.net we prescreen all users through the Maryland voter registration file then connect them with their actual elected officials. Since elected officials know all messages and votes in their MyMaryland.net Town Hall are from their registered voters then they don’t need to spend the time to verify them.
Voters can show their support or opposition to a post simply by voting it up or down instead of writing their own message, thus saving time for citizens and legislative staff. Legislative staff also save time by writing a single response to each post instead of multiple responses to numerous similar messages.
With MyMaryland.net voters and elected officials are able to convey more opinions in less time.Continue reading