“Throw them all out!” seems to be theme of this year, whether you’re speaking of the Alaska Legislature of Congress. People of all political persuasions are upset with the pace and actions of our legislative bodies. And so in frustration cry out for a clean sweep.
There’s no way that we as a State or a Nation can do this. Legislators and members of the US House are elected by district. US Senators are elected by States. So there is no instrument at hand that “we” can throw “them” all out. It sounds good, but in the end, all we have voting influence over is OUR legislators, our US Representative and our US Senator.
I think we would be better served at placing our anger and frustration with legislative bodies aside and really have a laser focus on the people we can actually vote for and against. Two actions within our power are monitoring our representatives as best we can and ensuring there is always an alternative.
Monitoring your representatives
The most important reason for paying attention to your state and federal representatives is that you might find you actually support what they do. Or you can become more articulate about exactly what you’re opposing.
The first step in monitoring your elected representatives is to find out who they are. Here are some places to get you started:
To use me as an example, here are my elected representatives, compiled from the Alaska Legislature and the federal links above:
State Representative (House District 33) – Sam Kito III (D)
State Senator (Senate District Q) – Dennis Egan (D)
I knew who my state representatives were before writing this post. If you live in Alaska, you’ll need to go to the bottom of the Legislature’s home page and search the box labeled “Who Represents Me?”
US Representative – Don Young (R) (Alaska has so few people, we only have one US Rep for the whole state.)
US Senators – Dan Sullivan (R) and Lisa Murkowski (R)
Now that you know who they are, visit their pages. Check out their press releases. In Congress and in most states, you can get a list of bills they sponsored. Are you on social media? Many elected reps have Twitter and Facebook accounts. Follow them. With your US Representatives and Senators, you can use Congress.gov to sign up for alerts of their activities.
Do you like what you see? Keep them and tell them. Don’t like? Tell them. In private and in social media. Be respectful – few people listen when they’re insulted. If they don’t listen (and some won’t), explore alternatives. If you can’t picture yourself voting for the other party, find who’s challenging your rep or senator in the primaries. If there’s no one, consider running even though you’d be a long shot. Uncontested means automatic victory.
One last thought is to treat candidates as individuals rather than as party avatars. Maybe that Republican is a bit more liberal than you thought – or you agree on an important issue. Maybe that Democrat is actually an NRA member. Look beyond the label to the person and see if you can support that person. You can always vote against them in the next election.
Ensuring there is always an alternative
Were you aware that many Alaska House and Senate seats go uncontested? Some US House and Senate seats go uncontested as well. What I mean by this is that the incumbent faces no one in their party primary. Then they win the general election by default because the other party did not run a candidate.
While having an alternative in either the primary or general election is no guarantee that your member will be turned out of office, not having anyone run is a guarantee their incumbency will continue. If you can’t find someone else to run, consider running yourself.
The requirements to file as a candidate vary by state. You should find your local election office and go from there. If you are looking for a party home, check out this list of parties from politics1 or google your favorite party name. If you have the inclination and time, consider joining your local party organization.
Ballotpedia, Alaska Senate – https://ballotpedia.org/Alaska_State_Senate_elections,_2016
Ballotpedia, Alaska House – https://ballotpedia.org/Alaska_House_of_Representatives_elections,_2016
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