In watching activists and casual users use Resistbot and share it on social media over almost three years, two things became clear:
First, organizers like Jenny Cohn have to give users an overwhelming amount of detail and instruction to push her message—in her case the importance of hand marked paper ballots—forward. I’ve seen other organizers provide scripts, varying types of instructions as to what level of government to send, how to change the script, how to be effective, etc. Before long, the average person can be overwhelmed and so does nothing instead of doing something. Even the insistence that only calls matter means a large dropoff of people that could have been tallied, and turned out to vote later. And this is where our feelings are strongest: people should be able to engage and be counted in a meaningful way, in a manner that’s intuitive and straightforward.
Second, despite the availability of the nearby keyword that gives sample letters, too many people still drop off once they text resist for the first time. We’ve sent over 13 million letters and logged over 100,000 minutes of phone calls, but too many are still unclear on what to say.
Enter our new version of open letters, which you can now use with the petition keyword. This solves both problems: activists and organizers can spend time to drive hundreds or thousands of contacts to Congress with none of the extra instructions that were required before and people new to the ‘bot or activism can engage more easily with fewer steps to worry about.
Starting your own petition is easy!
- Write your letter, same as always, to whatever government body you like. The most useful for petitions are:
state for all governors and state legislators,
congress for all officials in U.S. House and Senate,
governor for all U.S. governors, or
house/senate for all Representatives or Senators respectively.
Make sure your letter would work for any official who would receive it, so don’t mention specific official names, and as always, leave off your personal info, the bot always handles that automatically. Stick to the issue and position.
- Once you’ve sent your letter, text the word petition to the bot, and follow the directions.
- Share the petition image and code that’s returned to you when you finish. That’s it! You can make a huge impact with your thumbs and some time.
Here’s what a finished product looks like:
Your friends, family, and followers can deliver that to their own officials with one tap on Twitter, or by texting sign [your code here] to 50409.
With a few signatures, it looks more like this:
If you want to list your activist group or chapter as the author, you can!
Every person who ‘signs’ your petition is pulling in a copy and sending it to their own officials. Think of this when you’re sharing. Say you’re writing the Senate from Virginia as Chris did above. You’ve already gotten Senators Kaine and Warner. To get your letter to new officials, you’ll need to invite people in a different state. If you want to run up the tally with specific officials, focus your efforts in their districts or states.
It’s true that, generally speaking, staffers prefer to see constituents using their own words and see that they’re educated on the issues they’re writing in about, but education can take time, especially on complicated issues. Lobbyists are paid by corporations to build more expertise on issues than most lawmakers. Citizens are afforded no such compensation, despite issues in Congress such as the protection of pre-existing conditions in health insurance that can actually be life or death. By insisting that constituents communicate with Congress using methods that take more time for the sake of taking more time, lest they be dismissed as slacktivists, they reinforce a politics that speaks with an upper-class accent. We say: let’s meet people where they are, get their positions tallied by Congress, and help them take the first step in what’s hopefully a lifetime of civic engagement. Everyone has to start somewhere, and remember, everyone gets pulled into my proven get out the vote program.
This feature is brand new, so please give it a try and leave your comments with my feedback command or tweet us. We’ve already got a lot on the roadmap to make this better, but we need to hear from you so we make this work for you and your group!
Looking for other ways to help out? This feature was built by volunteer engineers, and we need more to stay online. We use technology like Python, Postgres, Gatsby, AWS, and more; so if you’re an engineer there’s probably something for you, or something to learn! Drop us a DM or an email to enlist. If you can’t code or don’t have time, consider becoming a sustaining donor. With a few more, Resistbot will be here to stay forever—turning out votes in 2020, and pushing for your agenda in 2021 and beyond.