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Taking Political Action: Easier Than Ever!

If you care about issues but don't think you have time to contact your elected representatives about those issues, take heart. The Internet has made taking political action easier than ever. Many groups, including, I am sure, some group that supports the same things you support, have Web sites providing very easy ways to send messages to your representatives. They will even write the letter for you. All you have to do is "sign" the letter with your real name and address and click the Send button. Easy peasy.

If you don't even know who your representatives are, you don't need to worry: These sites will look them up for you.

Furthermore, if you sign up for notifications, these sites will send you emails letting you know that an action needs to be taken. These emails generally have a link right to the page you need to sign. In two minutes, you can send an email (or, often, a fax or even a real letter) to your representatives, all at no cost to you. It couldn't get much easier.

The letter-writing process works, and it works really well. Without input from the voters, representatives have no way of knowing what people want, and they may vote in ways we don't like. Even just a few letters can sway them in one direction or another.

Here is an excerpt from an email I received from the Electronic Frontier Foundation in regard to an action I had taken recently.

"This is just a quick a note to say thanks for contacting Governor Schwarzenegger via EFF's Action Center and encouraging him to sign SB 370 - a bill intended to ensure that electronic voting machines use the voter-verified paper ballot as the official ballot of record.

We're pleased to say that your lobbying worked. Last week, over heavy opposition by California's Secretary of State and local election officials, the Governor signed that bill into law.

Matt Zimmerman, our attorney specialising in electronic voting issues, has fuller details at EFF's DeepLinks blog: http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/004048.php

In short, it's another victory. Every day we hear more evidence that your personal letters and communications with elected officials make them think and ultimately wins their support. ..."

(Emphasis mine.)

So I strongly encourage you to start taking action by sending emails to your representatives on issues that matter to you. Even one letter a year is better than none. But make it fun! Set yourself some challenges, such as writing one letter a month, and see if you can beat your own challenge. You could decide to concentrate on one issue, such as the environment, and sign up for every site that takes political action in that arena. Or you could decide to spread your efforts over a larger area, taking action at several different sites on several different issues. The important thing is to do something.

To get you started, here are some sites I use regularly. I am sure you can find more if you poke around the Internet.

  • Electronic Frontier Foundation: Heavy hitters fighting to protect civil liberties and the right to free speech.
  • BioGems: Fighting to protect and preserve nature and natural environments.
  • NRA: Fighting to protect our rights as affirmed by the Bill of Rights.

A note for people who are used to using handles or aliases

Handles and aliases are very common on the Internet. They are used to protect your privacy and shield you from scammers and stalkers, and other times using a handle is just the way a community is. In those cases, handles are appropriate.

However, when you take a political action, such as writing to your elected representative, it is important that you use your real name and real address. This is partly because it is presumed that your political representatives are not scammers or stalkers (though they may be scamming the public, but that is a topic for a different political discourse), and therefore you don't need to protect yourself from them.

Also, a handle is not a valid political entity—your real name is. You wouldn't register to vote with a fake name and address (I hope); you can't sign a petition with a fake name and address (otherwise, it wouldn't count); neither would you send a letter to your elected representative signed with a fake name and address. In all cases, your representatives need to know that the opinion being expressed belongs to a real person.

So use your real name and address when taking political actions.

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