We all have politically engaged friends who take to social media to encourage us to contact our representatives about important issues. But for those of us who don’t have a background in politics—maybe the 2016 presidential election was the first time you really got engaged—knowing exactly how to do that can be a little confusing.
Getting involved in politics does take a little work—you’ll need to educate yourself on who represents you at the local, state and national levels and on issues you care about—but it’s so worth it to be more in touch with the people and policies that affect you every day. Even if you don’t want to take a stand on an issue or associate yourself with a party or politician, simply staying informed is invaluable.
But if you do want to take it to the next level, it’s not as difficult as you might think to make your voice heard. And it’s not a waste of time: Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, one of the Republican U.S. senators whose vote stopped a rollback of the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, said she went against her caucus and opposed the bill because of an outpouring of feedback from constituents.
These smartphone apps can help you get up to speed on important issues and easily connect with your lawmakers, all in one place:
The folks behind Countable believe voting every four years for a president isn’t enough—we should all be “voting” every day.
Countable’s platform makes it easy to stay up to date and engaged on important issues and the different opinions people have on them (and why). You can then cast your digital vote on these issues. Your vote is sent to your elected officials—you can even personalize it with a note about why you feel the way you do.
It’s also a space for political debate. If social media feels like the wrong platform for you to engage on important (and controversial) political topics, taking to the message boards of Countable is a structured and safe place to do it. And because it’s a nonpartisan platform, you can educate yourself via easy-to-understand news articles integrated into the app.
icitizen has a similar feel to Countable, but with more of a localized focus. It includes information for state and local politicians (although it doesn’t get down to the city council level—it stops with your mayor) and allows you to connect and voice your opinions on local issues as well as broader ones.
When you share your stance on a topic, anonymized data is reported to your representatives. If that feels too passive, you can always contact them the old-fashioned way—all their information is at your fingertips once you make an account and click on the “Elected Officials” tab.
When you click on your elected officials’ profiles, you can get detailed information about your community, like unemployment rate and education level. It’s an easy and visually appealing way to learn more about your neighborhood.
Android: Not available
This app’s developers created it in the wake of the Women’s March and other protests that happened after the presidential election in 2016. Mobilize’s design is simple: You enter in your location and, with the press of a button, you’re connected via phone with your representatives.
The developers believe calling, rather than emailing or Tweeting or Facebooking, is the best way to get the attention of our elected officials. Apps like Countable might be helping to overwhelm politicians with an influx of emails their staffs aren’t equipped to answer, Wired reported. (Mysterious web tool Fax2DC.com believes faxing is the best way to contact your representatives.)
“We marched and we posted on Facebook but now it’s time to take real action,” the developers wrote on the Mobilize website. “Democracy is not a spectator sport. … We love talking to people, and we know it is the most effective way to make an impact in Congress, more than writing an email or letter.”
To make things even easier, call scripts are integrated into the app. You select your representative and the issue you care about and, bam, you’re in business.
One caveat: It’s important to form your own opinions about important issues. If you want to try out Mobilize, read through the provided scripts first to make sure you agree with what you’d be saying. You can also submit a script of your own for consideration.
Katie Moritz is Rewire’s senior editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.