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Are Town Halls Essential for Representative Democracy?

by Countable | 8.14.17

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) is holding an in-person town hall August 22 for the first time since being elected in 2016. Constituents are required to submit their names for a lottery to win one of the 135 seats available in the planned venue. Fitzpatrick represents over 700,000 constituents.

As town halls have become increasingly contentious, particularly for Republicans, many have started controlling attendance. Some have ceased having town halls all together.

Constituents can still call their Members of Congress, send them emails and even old-fashioned letters. Is that enough? Do you think representatives can actually represent their constituents if they don’t meet them face-to-face?

Should Members of Congress be required to have town halls? If so, should they have to choose large venues or have multiple, smaller events in order to see a baseline number of constituents?

If constituents engage in personal attacks and vitriol against their representatives at town halls, is that adequate justification for controlling the events more tightly?

Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(213)
  • Frankie
    08/14/2017
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    Yes, of course they are. If they won't hold them they shouldn't be public servants

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  • Susan
    08/14/2017
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    Absolutely! And any senator or representative who won't have one needs to be recalled and removed

    Like (62)
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  • Azrael
    08/14/2017
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    If you can't take the pressure and criticism of public life, go get another job, get off my payroll and pay for your own healthcare

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  • Johnelle
    08/14/2017
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    Yes. Especially now where a lot of representatives are isolating themselves and only listening to a small minority's opinions. They need to listen to ALL of us.

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  • Sherry
    08/15/2017
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    Town halls, not listening sessions are absolutely necessary. Everyone should be invited, not be invitations only.

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  • Truly
    08/15/2017
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    Yes. Representatives should face their constituents and get their unfiltered responses.

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  • William
    08/14/2017
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    Elected officials are voted into office to represent the views of the majority of their constituents. The behavior of some elected officials, combined with the absence of any input mechanism like town hall meetings, creates the perception that some officials are working to an agenda other than constituent representation. In the current environment of fast, easy communication, why don't our reps make it easier for us to communicate with them on the full range of issues related to our welfare? Town hall meetings make for good TV fodder, but seem to be one of the least effective mechanisms available.

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  • Timnyc
    08/14/2017
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    Town hall meetings are an essential part of the Democratic process and should be held monthly so the public voice and demands can be heard by the elected officials to carry out the wishes of the public. This process should be mandatory for all elected and appointed officials.

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  • MFein10
    08/14/2017
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    Holding town halls is one of a Congressperson's many important responsibilities. A town hall session is one of the best ways for constituents to make sure their representatives in Congress know and fight for their values. The more a Congressperson communicates with their constituents, the better they can represent the area.

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  • Matthew
    08/14/2017
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    DUH!!! It is an opportunity for constituents to directly voice their opinions to their representatives. FOR REPRESENTATIVES IT IS PART OF YOUR JOB TO LISTEN TO YOUR CONSTITUENTS!!!!

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  • Dominick
    08/14/2017
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    Absolutely! Our elected officials work for US! They should be held accountable to the will of the people and not beholden to corporate interests.

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  • Kelly
    08/15/2017
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    ABSOLUTELY! They are our "representatives", therefore, they are supposed to represent us. It is hard enough to get heard as an average citizen over the noise and power of special interest. Town halls provide on of the few opportunities to speak to our representatives in person. We get a chance to tell our stories ask our questions and participate in democracy.

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  • Tony
    08/14/2017
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    I think that anyone who wants to represent us should be required by law to conduct a town hall at least yearly (and open to all). If you don't want to do that, resign.

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  • Dennis
    08/14/2017
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    Yes, without exception.

    Like (8)
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  • Nancy
    08/14/2017
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    Town halls are essential for communication. Communication allows for problem solving

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  • Amy
    08/15/2017
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    Absolutely! Unfortunately attendance at them has been low for many years prior to Trump's election. I'm guilty as well but I will NEVER bury my head I the sand again and will stay watchful of every member of our government for the rest of my life, stay engaged, and communicate my views to my own representatives and as many others that I can get in front of.

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  • Robin
    08/15/2017
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    Town halls are one of the only ways to get face to face feedback both ways. It should be a requirement for reps and senators to have to stand before their constituents at least every 6 months through out their terms. This mechanism of expression provides an arena for "real" debate and "real" information to be passed on from the people represented.

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  • Niki
    08/14/2017
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    The lack of real town halls is a symptom of the demise of democracy in America. Screened questions are not acceptable. Limiting participants is not acceptable. Telephone town halls are not acceptable. Representative democracy simply does not work when the 'representatives' refuse to hear the input of their electorate.

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  • Andrea
    08/14/2017
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    Members of Congress are elected to represent us. We deserve face to face meetings with them. Rep. Thomas MacArthur rarely meets with us, and when he does he preloads the room with his friends and supporters, some from outside of his district. The people who disagree with him are never rude or abusive (unlike the Tea Party people who took over Democrats town halls), but they are often frustrated and feel ignored. I fax him regularly. When I get a response, it's a boilerplate "I'll keep your views on mind" letter that never really addresses the issue. I don't feel he really represents most of New Jersey's 3rd district. C'mon Democrats: vote!!

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  • Deirdre
    08/14/2017
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    Of course they are. A town hall meeting is where the public can let their representatives know what the public wants them to do. If you get rid of these meetings then the American voice will not be heard.

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