Give Congress a Second Chance


This post is by Ted Henderson, Founder of Capitol Bells.

congressional approval rating hovering around 13 percent suggests a failure to engage the public in the legislative process, but technology can provide a solution by giving citizens and politicians a new way to interact. Representatives need to know what we think in order to represent us.

Public engagement means sharing your voice with your community and elected leaders. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as pulling your elected official aside and telling them what you think. But what if it was that easy? What if there was a way to communicate with your community and your elected officials right from your laptop or smartphone?

The primary means for public engagement with Congress has been calling, emailing, or writing letters. But the volume of constituent mail has exploded in recent years. Over 10,000 advocacy organizations now direct millions of e-mail form letters to congressional offices, and as a result the value of each voice has been devalued.

Social media and crowdsourcing technologies provide new channels for engagement and direct communication with the political and social decision makers. Anyone can share their positions on specific bills through social networks, connect with communities, and amplified their voices.

Capitol Bells quantifies the voices behind a certain position, then uses those tallies to score politicians on how well they are representing. For instance, a user interested in immigration reform can use to express their support for H.R. 15 -- the House’s comprehensive immigration reform legislation. By creating and sharing a “Motion” with friends, this user can explain why the bill is important, try to collect more support,  and push her Congressman to cosponsor H.R. 15.

Hundreds of Members of Congress and thousands of congressional staffers already use Capitol Bells to promote their own legislation. Congresswoman Grace Meng wrote in support of H.R. 15:“It is well past time to fix our dysfunctional immigration system that has hurt too many people for far too long. The American people will not accept any more excuses. The time for CIR must be now.” Every time a constituent agrees with her position on the platform, Ms. Meng’s overall score as a Representative goes up.

Congressional approval ratings may be low, but our opportunity to engage with Congress has never been higher. With social media, and tools like Capitol Bells, lawmakers have a chance to take our voices into account like never before. Let’s give Congress a second chance to represent us.

Watch Ted's Startup Speak video:

Startups Speak: Ted Henderson on Vimeo.