Saturday, October 04, 2008

do you know who your elected officials are?

because there are so many americans that are flat-out ignorant of the political process and how things work, i think we should start with the basics. you know.  all that junk we learned in social studies class in grade school.  the thing is, we should not only know how things work but specifically who's representing us and how to reach them.  here's my short list.

the united states congress has two chambers: the senate (the upper house) and the united house of representatives (the lower house). both must approve legislation before it can be passed.  thanks to the wonderful world wide web, every elected official's contact information is online. you can call, you can email, you can do it the old fashioned way and write a letter -- and many of them actually have websites.
  1. if you want to reach out and contact president bush or vice president cheney, you can -- and you should. click here to find out how.
  2. every state gets two senators. i live in new york, so i've got senator charles schumer and senator hillary rodham clinton.   to contact your senator by state, click here.
  3. how many representatives each state has depends on how densely populated it is, but each state is guaranteed at least one representative.  they count heads to come up with these numbers, which is a part of the reason why the census is so important.  new york has 29 representatives. at 53, the state of california has more than anyone else.  the current total is 435.  i live in new york's 15th district and i am represented by the honorable charles b. rangel. to contact your representative by state, click here.
  4. of course, each state has their own executive, legislative and judicial systems.  new york has the state assembly (lower house) and the senate(upper house).  we have a pretty good idea of who's representing us nationally because one of them just ran for president and the other one is in the news quite a bit. the breakdown for new york state is: governor david a. patterson, state comptroller thomas p. dinapoli, and attorney general andrew cuomo. new york state has 60 senators. i have two senators in my zip code: bill perkins (district 30) and eric t. schneiderman (district 31). to find yours in new york state, click here.  to find the senator in your state, click here.
  5. ...and then there's all the action that happens in the counties, cities, towns and villages, from comptrollers to judges. to find out who's who and what's what in your state, click here.
make no mistake: our votes (or lack of them) put each and every single one of these officials in office and in power. our tax dollars pay their salaries. they are supposed to be representing us and working for us, to better our communities and give us a good quality of life.  and when they don't, they should be held responsible -- and if necessary, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  

you can abstain from voting if you feel like it. you can ignore who's doing what and why. but by choosing to not participate, you are participating.  if you are a citizen of the united states, there is no wrangling your way out of it.  you're in on this and voting is your responsibility.  

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