congress
With the end of one of its most unproductive sessions in history, the United States Congress began its five-week recess on August 1. The break – mandated by a 1970 law – means that many representatives will be returning to their home states to campaign and meet with locals.

Here are a few ways to take advantage of the next five weeks:

1. Try to Meet Your Congressmen

Today, many congressmen have a portal on their websites where constituents can request a meeting – usually two weeks in advance. It helps to focus on a specific issue and to meet the congressmen on behalf of, or with,  an organized group. Of course, this will be much more difficult if the congressman is up for election.

To maximize their outreach while on recess, politicians are finding other methods of meeting with voters, like Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California who will hold a town hall on August 16, or Congressman Kevin Yoder of Kansas who has held a series of telephone town hall forums.

2. Send an Email 

Depending on the issue, certain activist groups and charities have pre-written emails that require no more than the sender to fill in his or her name and address and click send. Groups like Amnesty International, Bread for the World and  The Borgen Project use the address information to determine the sender’s representatives and automatically connects the user to his/her congressional leaders’ contact information.

Senders can even personalize the message. The entire process can take 30 seconds or less. Send an email with The Borgen Project here.

3. Make a Quick Call

Congressional offices keep track of how many people call in and for what they request of the congressman. A 30-second phone call to an office, explaining you are a constituent and you wish the congressman to support a certain issue, will likely be filed under a call report.

If a congressman receives a high number of calls regarding an issue, he or she is likely to consider this in making a decision. Activists can program the phone number for the office in his or her phone and call on a weekly basis. It helps to know exactly what you plan to say before making the call. Encouraging friends and family to make the same call can increase support for a cause.

4. Advocate on Social Media

Following back-to-back presidential wins for President Barack Obama, many political experts pointed to the emergence of the social media presence as a major factor in the success of his campaigns. While several other factors also help explain his wins, the fact remains that one month out from the 2012 election, Obama led Governor Romney on Twitter by some 19 million followers and Facebook by over 21 million likes.

Similarly, members of Congress are attempting to use social media to their benefit, which provides constituents another venue through which to contact their congressmen. Sharing articles relating to your issue of choice not only informs your friends and followers, but also reminds your leaders to take action.

Even if you are not quite ready to start a movement, a small effort can spur big change.

Erica Lignell

Sources: Time, Facebook 1, Facebook 2, Amnesty USA, Bread for the World, Iowa Food Systems Council, NY Times
Photo: Wikimedia