October 30, 2005

Free the Form Letters!

Carroll Andrew Morse

Senators and Congressmen frequently respond to inquiries about issues by sending out a form letter. Here are a few form-letter stories compiled from Instapundit's Porkbusters reporting. They show that sometimes form letters address the questions being asked, sometimes they don’t.

Stories like those relayed by Instapundit, combined with my own experiences investigating positions on issues, got me thinking: why shouldn’t legislators take advantage of technology and make their form letters more widely and easily accessible by posting their libraries of form letters on their official websites?

Form letters can often be a legislator’s most detailed public statement on a particular policy. Making them electronically accessible would help constituents stay informed, and help constituents ask relevant questions to their elected representatives. Interaction around the form letters, where everyone is working off the same text, would help take the deliberative part of “deliberative democracy” to a new level.

With these ideas in mind. I put the following questions concretely to Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation, and hypothetically to their 2006 challengers: Will you make your library of issue form letters directly available to the public via the interent. If not, why not?

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I sent a letter to all 100 U.S. Senators. I received 3 replies, two of which were form letter. Both of which saying I was not their constituent. I then sent those 2 a reply reminding them that they were UNITED STATES SENATORS and every decision they made affected everyone not just the people in their states that voted for them. Didn't make one whit of difference but made me feel better.

Posted by: Sam at October 31, 2005 8:45 AM