Sending timely messages on bills to your Members of Congress is an important part of accountability. Their offices record and respond to your emails, and that process can alert staff to opinions held by their boss’s constituents. Sometimes their official replies can be helpful for us, as we gather information about the positions held by Members of Congress.
Many organizations ask you to contact people that aren’t your Members of Congress. Others ask you to fax, or sign a petition they never deliver. We don’t want you to waste your time, so enter POPVOX.
Heritage Action provides a service called PopVox, which enables you to send your email to Members of Congress.
POPVOX helps congressional staff by including specific information on the bill you want to support or oppose, as well as your information so they can easily respond. PopVox also has the option to post those messages in public, showing members of the media and others what a district or state thinks about a bill.
We recognize that using this service requires you to enter your information and authenticate your email address, and those steps can be inconvenient, but they are necessary steps to using POPVOX, which is the best way to use email for accountability.
What Makes POPVOX Unique
Many tools and companies offer delivery of emails to Congress. We use POPVOX because it’s the best we’ve found. Here are three practices that set them apart, and make their forms ideal for accountability emails:
1. Verify constituent addresses (so that Congressional offices are assured that it’s coming from a constituent);
2. Focus comments on specific bills pending before Congress (rather than accepting comments on broad subject like “the environment” or “guns”;
3. Discourage form letters from constituents, but instead give our users an opportunity to simply “support” or “oppose” a bill if they don’t want to write a personal comment.
How it Works
Comments left on POPVOX are delivered to your Representative and/or Senators in Congress. Your POPVOX home page displays the status of the delivery of your message.
POPVOX delivers messages to Congress electronically* because that’s how the offices prefer to receive them. Your message goes into the office’s database that lets them track their constituents’ sentiment on bills and group similar letters together for their replies. (Printed letters and faxes are so much harder for offices to process. Your name and address would be keyed into their database by the nearest intern, and what you wrote will probably never be seen by a policy staff member.)
*A small number of Congressional offices do not accept electronic delivery from third party services. In those cases we will actually print out your message walk down to Capitol Hill and deliver your message in person.
Either way, you’ll see a note on your POPVOX Home page that we’ve delivered your comment once we hand it off to the Congressional office.
POPVOX: Frequently Asked Questions
Why does POPVOX ask for personal information? In order to post emails to Congressional inboxes, POPVOX forms need to gather your name, address, and other contact information. We ask so that your message can make it all the way to your Member of Congress’s staff. POPVOX remembers your information so you only need to fill it in once, but never sells or distributes your private information.
Why does POPVOX send me email before it sends my message to Congress? POPVOX follows a best practice of email confirmation to ensure you are a real person. Confirming your email address also ensures that you will receive your Member of Congress’s response to the email you send. After clicking through from one POPVOX confirmation email, you won’t need to do it again to send another message.
Why do I need to create a POPVOX account? POPVOX creates accounts for people using their tools so that you can track when your message was delivered to Congress. With an account, you can also weigh in on other bills without having to go through the verification process each time. POPVOX works because each user is verified so their Members of Congress know that they are a “real person” and a constituent of that District or State. Then positions taken on a specific bill using POPVOX are aggregated to bring transparency and accountability into the policy-making process.
POPVOX asks for detailed contact information, including your home address and in some cases your phone number, because we need this in order to ensure that your message to Congress reaches the appropriate Congressional office.
You can see exactly what we know about you at popvox.com/legal.
Why doesn’t Heritage Action offer form letters I can click once to send? As the former staffers on our team will attest, congressional offices ignore form letters, faxes, and other identical messages. We can’t change this practice, so we want to make sure your messages get through. We provide suggested talking points, but urge you to take a few seconds to write your own short, clear statement in each email.
What if I don’t leave a comment? As you weigh in on bills, you have the option to skip the personal message. When you skip the personal message, POPVOX sends a simple notification to legislators (if they accept electronic delivery), which says: “(your name) supported/opposed this bill on POPVOX and chose not to leave a comment. He/she is not expecting a response.”
More Information from POPVOX
Take a look at POPVOX’s description of why it works here, or click through the presentation below.