Modernizing Constituent Surveys

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These email updates frequently opine about the need to modernize government processes. I certainly want to practice what I preach and apply these same concepts to my office.

Historically, legislators have issued constituent surveys. These surveys are distributed in paper form throughout the legislator’s district. The surveys provide the lawmaker with his constituents’ point of view about bills pending legislative action.

Here is the problem.

Because the process is paper based, by the time the legislator receives and tabulates the survey results, the issues polled may have already been decided. The returned survey may function as little more than a referendum on the legislator’s already cast vote without giving him the insights of his constituency prior to voting.

Because each survey is issued only one time, it cannot be changed to incorporate new proposals or updated policies as they evolve throughout the session.

Publishing surveys also entails expense because the cost of distribution comes out of the legislator’s office budget.

This year, it was my goal to incorporate the survey with the weekly District 31 email update. Over the years, this update has grown to include hundreds of District 31 residents. It has enabled an ongoing two-way conversation each week.

After observing how this dialog enables the participant to provide real time feedback, I made the decision to use the email update as the vehicle for delivering the survey.

There are a number of advantages to this approach. Poll questions are generated in real time as events warrant, results are immediately tabulated and made available to the voter at the time of his response, cost is minimal and best of all, the feedback can be provided in real time in order for it to be taken into account prior to a vote on the issue. The results are tabulated and monitored in real time as constituents vote. We no longer have to manually tabulate the results.

The email survey system has been developed and beta tested over the past few weeks. The system was designed to allow the recipient to express his viewpoint as painlessly as possible with just one click from his email. Once he votes, he can see the results at that time and receive the final results a few days later attached to another email update.

The system was especially useful late in the session as new proposals were rolled out. For example, shortly before the final week of session, legislative leaders introduced the income tax reduction proposal. The survey polled the proposal and provided readers with a link to access more information. This allowed numerous constituents to send in their vote. In the past, it would have been almost impossible to generate this type of real-time poll late in the session and link to relevant information.

I’m glad to say that the beta version of the system has mostly worked as designed and will continue to be used in future years. Thank you to everyone who participated. Next week’s article will include results from this year’s surveys and the final outcome of the polled proposals.

If you are not on the email update yet, please consider signing up by visiting hd31.org/307.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.

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