How To Hound Your Representative If They Voted For The AHCA
In the hit HBO series Game of Thrones, Arya Stark keeps a list of those who've wronged her and must suffer the consequences. With House Republicans passing the American Health Care Act (AHCA), legislation that stands to dramatically raise the cost of insurance for those with preexisting conditions while leaving an estimated 24 million people without health care, it's time we, as voters, created a list of our own. Obviously, I'm not talking about a list of people we intend to kill, but rather a list of Congressional representatives we intend to vote out of office come the 2018 midterm elections. But with roughly 551 days between now and the 2018 elections, what can be done in the meantime? While the most effective action to take against elected representatives who vote against constituents' interests is voting them out of office, let us not sit by idly or silently as we wait for midterm elections to roll around. Here's how hound your congressional representative about their AHCA vote.
If calling your representative to discuss legislative issues is already a part of your weekly routine, keep it up! Consider reaching out to family and friends to encourage them to get to know their own representative. Share with them how easy and empowering civic engagement can be. If you've never contacted your Congressional representatives before but are simply so incensed with how they voted on the AHCA that you're ready to call, write, email, visit their local office, and show up at town hall meetings, welcome.
First things first; reaching out to your representative is significantly easier than you may think. If you're not sure who your congressional representative even is, you can quickly look them up using your zip code here. Once you've found your representative, visit their official website to find their contact information. Program their number into your phone and make calling a habit. Take a few moments to write them a brief note about how you feel about their recent legislation actions, including how they voted on the AHCA. (You can check whether your representative voted for or against the AHCA here.)
Alternatively, you can also use an app like Countable to not only keep informed about upcoming legislation but also easily let your representatives know how you'd like them to vote on said legislation and then track how they actually did vote.
But don't stop there. Invite your friends over for some pizza and political activism. As you chow down on a slice, discuss how the AHCA stands to impact each of you. Hand out postcards or cards already stamped and ask everyone to tell their congressional representative how they feel about House Republicans' health care legislation.
While phoning and writing are great first steps, speaking with your representative face-to-face is often a more effective and powerful means of connecting with them. Meeting your representative face-to-face can be a bit more tricky as each representative handles public interaction differently. Some, like California Rep. Eric Swalwell, host informal events like "Congress on Your Corner" or "Coffee with your Congressman" at various locations throughout their district and are active users of social media sites like Foursquare, allowing constituents to "track their representative" in an effort to stay engaged with constituents. Other representatives, however, may be harder to speak with face to face.
You can check to see if your representative has a town hall scheduled through their official website or through the Town Hall Project, a volunteer-based initiative that aims to empower constituents to have face-to-face conversations with their elected officials. If your representative only hosts town halls over the telephone (as New Jersey Republican Tom MacArthur, one of the legislators behind the MacArthur Meadows Amendment, reportedly does), register to participate and try to use the time to question your representative just as you would during an in-person forum.
If your representative isn't hosting town halls at all, let them know they need to via phone calls and petitions. Protest outside your representative's district offices and organize so-called "empty chair" town halls where you invite your representative to come fill the chair. In many cases you can file appearance requests online. Rep. MacArthur, for example, allows constituents to file appearance requests through his website.
For constituents who live in districts represented by legislators that supported the AHCA, holding those elected representatives accountable through letters, petitions, phone calls, protests, and town halls can be empowering ways to try and discourage them (as well as your state's senators) from continuing to move ahead with the AHCA. However, at the end of the day, the best course of action is showing up at the ballot box in 2018 and letting your elected representative know how you feel about their job performance with a vote of your own. Until then, channel Arya Stark and repeat your list to yourself nightly.