Colin Delany August 4, 2006

Getting Local: The Next Frontier for Online Politics?

Is local politics the next place where online activism will make a serious mark? The New Politics Institute’s recent presentation talked about the importance of working with political bloggers who write about local issues, as did this year’s South By Southwest panel on political blogging.

Now, GetActive’s come out with a module that allows organizations to connect members with local officials — they’ve built a system that matches constituents with municipal and county officials by zip code (for counties with more than 25,000 residents), and their first customer is the National Association of Realtors. We can assume that other providers either have or will follow suit.

But can we avoid the problems that have crippled email as a tool for reaching Congress and led to the infamous logic puzzle?

I asked GetActive that question, and here’s the response I got from Tom Krackeler, GetActive’s VP for Products & Marketing:

You’re right to wonder about that. Local advocacy offers the opportunity for much more personal communications with city and county officials. GA has district matching to ensure that officials get letters only from their local constituents. Since there is a much smaller number of constituents per elected official, there’s much less “noise.” Just a few personal letters can make a big difference. We recommend to our clients and have developed our product to support best practices: personalized communications, follow-up emails with communications by phone or in person visits, make communications that are timely and topical.

I think he’s right that scale will offer some protection, since city council members and county commissioners are going to represent far fewer people than Congressmembers except in the very largest cities. And considering the much lower volume of constituent mail that they receive, a handful of emails or calls are much more likely to be effective than they are with Congress. But it’s still going to be incumbent upon us, the practitioners, to conduct our campaigns in ways that will minimize the chances of our poisoning the well.

cpd

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