Adopt-A-District Guide is the product of a partnership between Center for American Progress Action Fund, the Indivisible Project, Organizing for Action, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and Town Hall Project.
You’ve been trying to locate your missing Member of Congress (MoC), to attend a town hall or an event and let them hear your voice. They’ve been showing up for fundraisers and for votes—including to vote ‘yes’ on the House’s cruel health care bill—but they won’t do their jobs and have a town hall.
One thing is clear after the House of Representatives passed their cruel bill to strip away healthcare from 24 million Americans—members of Congress who voted for the administration’s bill are not standing up for their constituents’ best interests or listening to their concerns. This has effectively left millions of Americans without representation when they need it most.
Adopting a district is similar to hosting an empty chair town hall, except the person in the chair may be a neighboring or near-by member of Congress who is stepping in to help their peers’ constituents who are being ignored.
Key Facts and Messaging
These are the facts about the Republican healthcare repeal bill that passed the House of Representatives:
The bill will cost American lives. That’s not an exaggeration, it’s a fact.
The bill, as written, will deny coverage to the millions of people who have pre-existing conditions who will be be stranded without affordable options for coverage.
Voting on a bill that affects 1/6th of the national economy, without a CBO score showing how much it will cost, is utterly reckless. The Senate must hold public hearings and get a CBO score.
Nearly 140 million Americans who get health care through their employer will not be spared—millions everywhere are at risk of losing protections against lifetime caps on insurance.
The bill would mean premium hikes for common issues; over $4,000 for a person with asthma, $8,000 for someone with depression and a whopping $17,000 for a pregnancy (WITHOUT any complications).
The bill cuts Medicaid by over $800 billion which will result in millions of the country’s most vulnerable losing coverage, especially working families, children and people with disabilities—all for a tax cut to the wealthiest few.
Passing health care reform was an historic achievement that truly changed the lives of families across the country, many of whom never had access to affordable care. Under Obamacare, 20 million more Americans have gained health care coverage and the nation’s uninsured rate is at an all-time low. There are more positive steps that can be taken to continue this progress—but despite the rhetoric from its opponents, the health care law has never been more popular.
At the end of the day, 217 members sold out their constituents and proved they’re nothing more than rubber stamps for this administration’s destructive agenda. They decided it was more important to give the White House a ‘win’ than to stand up for families who have everything to lose.
A vote in favor of this legislation was a vote to punish people for getting sick, for getting older, for having less income, for being female—all to hand a massive tax giveaway to the rich. If this bill were signed into law, 24 million fewer people could have insurance, Medicaid would be slashed by nearly $1 trillion, protections for pre-existing conditions would be gutted, insurers would no longer be required to cover essential health benefits, and Planned Parenthood would be defunded.
Nobody truly believes this bill will make people’s lives better. Not medical experts. Not health care providers. Not AARP or the American Cancer Society. Not the overwhelming majority of Americans. Not even the members who voted for it, who can’t seem to explain what is good about this bill. And those representatives will continue to be held accountable by their constituents for the callous vote they cast.
But the health care fight is far from over—the Senate has already made clear they want nothing to do with the heartless bill that passed in the House. Even some Senators who are staunch Obamacare opponents have drawn lines in the sand that the House bill blatantly violates, like defunding Planned Parenthood, slashing Medicaid, and gutting protections for pre-existing conditions.
Nevertheless, leaders in the Senate intend to craft their own legislation to move forward on repealing Obamacare.
So the same volunteers and community leaders who fought valiantly against the House repeal effort will need to be just as vigilant in making their voices heard by members of the Senate. Senators will now decide whether they really want to go through with repealing a health care law that’s changed so many lives for the better instead of working in a bipartisan manner to protect and improve it.
The House members who rubber stamped the administration’s disastrous Obamacare repeal bill are already seeing massive blowback in their districts. The fear and anger from their constituents who could lose their access to quality, affordable health care is palpable. And the Senate, no doubt, is taking note. The more they hear the stories of the personal stories millions of Americans who have so much on the line, the more terrified they are of being responsible for inflicting that harm.
That’s why now, more than ever, we all need to make our voices heard—it’s the only way we can stop this heartless crusade.
Planning an Adopted Member Town Hall
Goals, Strategy, Tactics
The goal is to hold your MoC accountable for their monstrous vote on healthcare. Pressure from constituents like you is how we let MoCs know that they aren’t doing their job and they aren’t representing your needs. It also reminds them they will have to answer to their constituents for the choices they make. It’s hard to apply this kind of pressure, however, when your MoC won’t even show their face for a town hall in their own district.
Our strategy is to publicly air your and others’ discontent, and make clear that decisions like these are disastrous. To do this, you can invite a more progressive MoC from a neighboring district to do what yours won’t—talk about healthcare and this bill’s implications in your district. This allows us to frame the problem: the MoC who voted “Yes” are too ashamed to face their constituents.
Neighboring districts often share a media market. This means that any press your event with your special guest receives will get back to your MoC; that media will draw a stark contrast between a politician toeing a dangerous party line and a representative who understands the need to protect the ACA (Obamacare). Inviting an MoC who voted “No” on the AHCA will allow positive media for the MoC who voted “No” and negative media for the MoC who voted “Yes”. This pressures the “Yes” votes to show up to answer to constituents like you; after all, if they don’t show up, they know that we’ll continue to frame the fight without them.
Step 1: Make a Connection
Identify a neighboring group. Use the action map on the Indivisible or OFA website to search for groups in nearby districts: http://www.indivisible.org/act-locally/ and https://www.ofa.us/get-involved/find-your-chapter.
Introduce yourself and make an ask. Send an email or a message to the other group. Explain the purpose for reaching out (i.e., you want to host their MoC or you want to lend them your MoC. If you are reaching out because you want to lend them your MoC, please remember that the official invite should be coming from the group that is in the MoC’s district.).
Plan a strategy meeting. Set a time for an in person or phone meeting to brainstorm and set plans. Time is of the essence, so doing a phone meeting is fine if it’s tough to get people together.
Step 2: Agree on a Plan
At your meeting or over the phone, go through the following steps:
- Book a venue. Explore holding your event at a local school, library, church, town hall or conference or convention center where a space can be obtained for low or no cost. Find out if basics like chairs and audio equipment are already available at the venue.
- Write an agenda. You’re putting time into coordinating this event, so take time to make the most of it by outlining a detailed agenda for the day of the event. A few questions to consider:
- Who will introduce your MoC? We recommend constituents who would be affected by repeal. Personal stories from people in the district are one of the most powerful tools at our disposal.
- Will you have an emcee?
- How much time will the MoC have for remarks?
- How much time for Q&A?
- What other speakers will you invite if any? Local doctors, nurses, policy professionals, or affected individuals or storytellers can make great speakers. Do not feel the need to have more than a few other speakers, though; the bulk of the time should be lent to the MoC.
Plan your questions. Like with any town hall, you should take time before the event to develop a list of questions. See How to Stand Indivisible at Town Halls for tips and Enough is Enough for talking points. You can also find resources from OFA’s Get Ready for Recess.
Identify constituents with personal stories. Invite constituents with personal stories about the ACA to share before the MoC speaks or to be the first question askers. Again, you don’t need more than a couple before the MoC speaks.
Assign volunteers roles for the event. One person can take on more than one role if you’re short on volunteers, but these roles can be great opportunities to recruit new folks from your network or those of other group members!
Welcome/ Sign-in: sits a folding table and signs everyone in on a clipboard, collecting email and phone numbers. Invites all locals to the debrief meeting and collects RSVPs.
Visibility: Responsible for signage inside and outside the venue, as permitted.
Mic duty (ideally two volunteers): Passes the mic to constituents during Q&A portion. Makes certain that the A/V equipment works before the event begins, but someone should do that.
Ushers: Asks folks if they’ve signed in and then points them to seats, making sure to fill up the front rows first.
Social media (ideally two volunteers): One person to manage the livestream, one person to live tweet the event. This team should post the event on Facebook as soon as possible, invite all their friends, and encourage everyone in the group to do the same. This person should also make sure to post pictures and video to Indivisible Twitter and put them up on Mobilize.
Emcee: Gives brief welcome remarks and introduces each speaker.
Step 3: Invite your MoCs
Inviting the MoC who voted “Yes” on the AHCA: (we expect them to say no and skip the event, but great if they attend, as you can have a real live Town Hall!):
- Official invite to the office. Submit an official meeting request through your MoC’s website, call their office and ask to speak to the scheduler, or request the scheduler’s email address. Be prepared to follow up if/when you don’t get a speedy response; the best way to follow up is via phone. When you email the scheduler on a request like this, it doesn’t hurt to include the MoC’s Press Secretary, who is charged with protecting the narrative about the MoC. You can also hand deliver an invitation to a district office. To drum up extra excitement about the event, document the process and post about it on social media with photos and video.
- Emphasize that you’re a constituent. In all of your communications, stress that you are constituents, that you want to hear directly from them, and that you’re interested in a polite, respectful exchange of ideas. Explain how many people you’re expecting and let them know if you’re expecting press.
- Explain the alternative. Make it clear that you’re inviting a neighboring member of Congress and explain your reason for doing so.
- If your member won’t attend, invite a neighboring MoC who voted correctly. Call their office, ask to speak to their scheduler, get the scheduler’s email, and send them an invitation. (Need help? Contact the Progressive Change Campaign Committee’s Capitol Hill team AFTER you have extended the invite by emailing IndivisiblePCCC@BoldProgressives.org).
Inviting the MoC who voted “No” on the AHCA and is visiting the district (we want them to say yes and attend!):
Official invitation to the office. Use the same above outlined tactics to publicly invite your MoC to the town hall.
Explain the circumstances. Share the plan with your MoC and explain why this is beneficial to both the constituents in the other district and to their own image. If you have any event details to share, do. It’s also fine to note that we are working to do this in other districts as well.
Step 4: Publicize the Event
Invite local media. Write a press release and send it to all of your local media contacts. Directions for how to write a press release can be found here.
Spread the word on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Patch, Instagram, share your event on your group’s account and on own your own as well. Encourage all of your leadership team and your members to do the same.
Call and email your member list. While this will drive some attendance, calling anyone you have a phone number for is by far the best way to drive attendance.
Let other groups in your district know. Do you know people who are parts of other progressive organizations? Or who are part of constituencies who might be interested, like medical professionals, mother’s groups, etc? Let them know about the event and send them a version of the email you sent your members that they can email their lists.
Post flyers and send invitations. Do you have a talented graphic designer or just some markers and printer paper? Either way, you have the tools you need to post flyers on every bulletin board and telephone pole in town.
Make a plan to promote the event at the last minute. Post an update in the Facebook group and on Twitter. Bring your friends and neighbors. Send a last minute email update.
Step 5: Have a Great Event!
Remind your attendees before the event. Find a few volunteers to help call through your attendees the day before the event to confirm location and information.
Confirm how much time your MoC has for the event. You may need to change the agenda to accommodate them. While other speakers can be good, remember that the media is largely interested in the MoC.
Confirm with local media and speakers. Make sure your speakers and local media have all information for the event and are planning to attend.
Set up in advance. Arrive at the venue a few hours before the event to get set up.
Set up a sign-in table for all of your attendees, and use your welcome table to recruit them to attend your next meeting. Get people’s phone numbers and emails (sign someone in on the first line with both phone and email and other folks will follow suit).
Arrange seating for the speakers.
Work with speakers who are not the MoC to practice their comments. Remind them to keep it brief, 2-3 minutes tops.
Test all lighting and A/V equipment.
Charge all devices for social media leads.
Reserve space for the press.
Make sure you have a seating section for people with disabilities. The usher should know where this is and point people there, as necessary.
Prepare your speakers with the run of show. Make sure you prepare the MoC with the timing of the agenda and answer his/her questions in advance of starting the program.
Step 6: Follow Up
Host a debrief meeting. Use this as an opportunity to bring in new members and show your gratitude to everyone who helped make this a success. Consider holding a combined meeting with both districts—this could be the first event in a great relationship!
How did it go? Ask feeling questions and discuss candidly. Are you happy with the turnout? The run of show? The press? What would you do differently if you could do it over again?
Write thank you notes. Handwrite thank you notes for the MoC and special guests.
What next? Make a plan for your next action.