If you live in the US, it's your civic duty to understand our governing bodies and the political system that puts them in place. It doesn't matter what your age is, knowing who to vote for is as important as voting at all. That starts with policing your own representatives to help decide whether or not we should re-elect them.
To navigate the confusion and complex world of politics, your best tool is your smartphone. There are numerous apps for Android and iOS that consolidate information in an easy to navigate UI. You can learn exactly what your representatives are voting on and the details of bills currently being proposed. Instead of limiting your knowledge to news outlets, you can get the information closer to the source and shape your opinion accordingly.
ReleVote is a fantastic app for those wanting to learn more about the legislative branch. You can search for individual members or locate your representative in the House by inputting your ZIP code.
- App Store Link: ReleVote (free)
On the congressional member's home page, you'll find their voting record organized into a pie graph. You can see how often they vote along party lines, and specific bills they did (or didn't) vote on. You can add members of Congress to your favorites list for reference and contact any member by phone. There are also live polls and updates on the status of recent bills.
Countable is an app that lets you take an active role in your government's decisions. Instead of calling your representatives to vote in the way you wish, you can tell them by voting on the bills yourself. Each bill gives a quick summary in favor and against the bill, which using this information can choose "Yay" or "Nay" as if you were congressperson.
While your vote doesn't have any legal powers, it is submitted to your representatives (both in the House and Senate), so they know what you want them to choose. Additionally, you can leave a comment to justify your decision, and this is also sent to your congresspersons.
To help you navigate the hundreds of issues the government is responsible for, you can choose topics you want to learn more about, which will populate your feed. You will find the latest news that relates to this interest, so your knowledge remains up to date.
If you are using an iPhone, another great option is Our Congress. This app will inform you nearly everyone in a high standing political position, including House members, Senators, the governor, and even district attorney.
Each government official includes contact information across platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, telephone numbers, and their website. For members of Congress, you will find two additional categories, "Record," and "Campaign Contributions." The former lets you know their voting record, committees they are involved in, bills they cosponsored, and more, while the latter gives you a breakdown of who their donors are and what industry they're affiliated with.
- App Store Link: Our Congress (free)
There is also a section regarding upcoming bills. You can search for bills currently in the House and Senate and read a summary of that they contain. There is also a section about Congress' daily activities and nominations for special positions. It even contains a copy of the Constitution.
While Congress isn't the prettiest app, it does have everything you need to learn about Congress' activities. It contains information on upcoming bills, including a summary and who introduced it. There is also a timeline of bill activities and information on the vote. On the bottom of the page (above the notification bar) is the option to be alerted of any updates to the bill.
- Play Store Link: Congress (free)
You can search for representatives, follow bills, votes, and more. Unlike other apps, you can't search for your representative using your ZIP code, so you need to find what district you're in, but you'll then get quick access to their contact info. Despite its name, the app is not affiliated with the US Congress. Its data is, however, accurate, as it's collected with ProPublica's Congress API. It is also one of the few open-source apps on our list.
5 Calls is not for everyone. There is a liberal bias that will deter independents and conservatives. However, it is an excellent tool to make you more active in government if you align with its creators on the issues.
- Play Store Link: 5 Calls (free)
As the name implies, the app encourages you to make five calls a day to your representatives. It presents several issues and asks you to call your House and Senate members to demand change.
Select a topic and read the provided summary. If you feel passionate about it, select "Contacts to call for this issue," then choose any of your representatives. You'll get their numbers along with a script to recite. After calling, 5 Calls asks you to let them know the result, whether they were unavailable, left a voicemail, or made contact.
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