Congress finally enters the ’90s, gets public email addresses

It’s taken a few decades of mind-numbing inaction—but now, finally, every member of the U.S. Congress has an email address. We welcome our representatives to the 1990s.

Of course, that has little to do with Congress themselves. Instead, the Sunlight Foundation, working with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has removed all the annoying obstacles that get in the way of contacting your representatives. Each member of Congress has been given a simple addresses, like [email protected] or [email protected] You can also email [email protected] to email all of your senators and House representatives in one fell swoop.

This new valuable piece of information sits on OpenCongress, the Sunlight Foundation’s brilliant fact sheet that gathers a tremendous amount of information on the men and women governing in D.C.

You can head over to Rep. John Boehner’s page to find an email address, phone number, mailing address, social media accounts, voting record, and analysis. The same is true of everyone in working in the Capitol building. But finding those contact details can sometimes be a frustrating task.

Screengrab via Sunlight Foundation

Here’s how the system works, according to the Sunlight Foundation:

The first time we get an email from you, we’ll send one back asking for some additional details. This is necessary because our code submits your message by navigating those aforementioned congressional webforms, and we don’t want to enter incorrect information. But for emails after the first one, all you’ll have to do is click a link that says, “Yes, I meant to send that email.”

Right now, the Sunlight Foundation’s email system allows users to email only their own representatives, which isn’t exactly an ideal setup.

“A lot of people dislike this,” the organization explains. “We do, too. In an age of increasing polarization, party discipline means that congressional leaders must be accountable to citizens outside their districts. But the unfortunate truth is that Congress typically won’t bother reading messages from non-constituents—that’s why those zip code requirements exist in the first place. Until that changes, we don’t want our users to waste their time.”

It’s not the perfect solution. For another thing, if you’re dying to yell loudly at your congressman, they’ll probably still not open attachments. A viable alternative is to record your fuming on YouTube for the whole world to see.

Still, it’s undeniably the kind of solid, smart, and simple step forward that we’ve come to expect from the Sunlight Foundation. Reaching out to congresspeople works—it really does. And anything that makes it much easier for Americans to do so deserves applause.

H/T TechDirt | Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

Patrick Howell O'Neill

Patrick Howell O'Neill

Patrick Howell O'Neill is a notable cybersecurity reporter whose work has focused on the dark net, national security, and law enforcement. A former senior writer at the Daily Dot, O'Neill joined CyberScoop in October 2016. I am a cybersecurity journalist at CyberScoop. I cover the security industry, national security and law enforcement.