New contributor! Bryan Fratkin is a friend-of-e.politics and the founder of SparkInfluence. He recently noticed that Marco Rubio limits his constituents to small sips of water on the communications front, metaphorically speaking.
At SparkInfluence, we look at a lot of Senate and House websites when delivering constituent messages on behalf of clients. Some are exceptional –- clean, concise, easy to follow, even easier to reach out. Others are workable –- not the cleanest or prettiest, but easy enough to navigate. Others still are nearly impossible to figure out.
And so when we started seeing delivery failures for messaging to Florida Senator Marco Rubio recently, we had to take a look at his new site. The site itself is lovely. Clearly defined buttons make it easy to navigate, a mobile-ready design means constituents can easily check on the Senator from anywhere. The problem? The Senator now limits all messaging to 500 characters or less — or roughly 3.5 tweets worth of text.
Clearly phone calls, tweets and Facebook posts all exist to get the Senator’s attention. But traditionally, the letter (and later the email) to the legislator was the one place where a constituent could express his or her full sentiment. No longer.
Now, we’ve previously seen limits of 1500 characters or even 2000, but never one this low. The populist in me is upset that the new site limits the amount of detail a constituent can give when voicing their opinion. (How am I supposed to tell my legislator how upset I am at their choices, or relate how a specific tax on X will affect my day-to-day life in only 500 characters?) And of course, I can’t imagine limiting space to provide an citizen opinion looks good to the anti-“Washington insiders” voter.
At the same time, the pragmatist in me sees the utility. In today’s day and age, across all platforms, we all strive to be succinct. The wheels of government are no different. The quicker a constituent can get their message across to a more-than-likely overworked staffer, the better it is for all involved.
Time will tell if other legislators follow suit. For now, @MarcoRubio team, at the very least include a character counter so that constituents don’t take the trouble to share their story, only to be told it’s too long for you to manage.