Educate the Candidates

Candidates running for office need to hear from you. Telling them what’s important to you and asking questions about the issues you care about most are great ways to hold them accountable.

Check out these ways to make your voice heard:

  1. Ask a question at the next event you go to.
  2. Call the candidates’ offices and tell them what you think.

Bird Dogging: How to Ask the Candidates Questions

Asking candidates tough questions in person is a great way to push them to take action.

Here are the steps you need to take to ask a candidate a question:

  1. Find an event. Sign up for candidates’ email lists to find out about upcoming events near you. Look for other popular events where politicians are likely to show up like community BBQs, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, fairs, town-hall meetings, fundraisers, etc. Check out the Governing Under the Influence site for info on candidate appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire.
  2. Invite a couple of friends to join you. It’s always more fun to partner with friends and having multiple people prepared to ask questions increases the likelihood that you’ll get called on (especially if you split up once you arrive).
  3. Do some research. Learn the candidate’s position on the issue you’d like to ask them about. Find out if there are instructions for asking questions at the particular event you’re attending.
  4. Pick a question. Be concise and ask for a specific response. Make sure your question is easy to remember and practice asking it out loud.
  5. Tell us about your plans. We’ll let you know if we can invite people to join you. We can also provide feedback on your questions. Email us at [email protected].
  6. Arrive early. Get to the event early so you can be in a position where the presenter can see you and potentially call on you.
  7. Ask your question. Ask your question early, and be prepared to follow up if needed. Stand up so you can be seen and heard. If there’s a microphone, use it. If not, be sure to project. If there’s an opportunity to shake hands or speak with the lawmaker one on one, get in line and ask your question.
  8. Be polite, clear and concise. Keep your tone positive.
  9. Document. Ask one of your friends to take photos and video of the exchange between you and the candidate so you can share it later. If you get someone on camera, tweet it out with the #Internet2016 hashtag and send it to us at [email protected]. If you’re unable to use photos or video write down your question and the response and send both to us.
  10. Talk to the media. If members of the media are present, aim to share your question with them. Tell them why you wanted to ask it and what you want the candidate to do.
  11. Follow up. Follow up with the candidate’s staff after the event by calling, emailing or visiting their office. Each situation will be different, but you might want to thank them for responding, press them for a more specific answer, repeat the question or tell the staffer you have a question that you didn’t get to ask. (Don’t forget to thank your friends for joining you too!)
  12. Determine your next steps. Promote the photos and video via social media. Make plans to ask the same question or a related one at the next event.

If you need help or have any questions, please feel free to email us at [email protected]. We’re happy to help out!

Sample Questions

The best questions will come from you, so we encourage you to come up with your own. Be concise and ask for a specific response. Make sure your question is easy to remember and practice asking it out loud in advance.

Here are a few questions to help you brainstorm your own:

  1. Phone and cable companies claim they have the right to censor Internet users. What will you do to stop them?
  2. Nearly 30 percent of U.S. households don’t have high-speed Internet. What will you do to ensure access for everyone?
  3. Some members of Congress are trying to kill the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules. How will you safeguard these protections?
  4. What will you do to make Internet access more affordable?
  5. Companies like Comcast and Charter would rather kill off their competitors than invest in their networks and better serve their customers. What will you do to change this?
  6. People need the Internet to participate in our economy and our democracy. How will you expand Internet access to underserved communities?
  7. The Internet is an essential tool for public discourse in an election year. What will you do to preserve free speech online?
  8. Building a fast, open and affordable Internet is necessary to bridging the digital divide. What steps will you take to connect more people?
  9. Voices silenced in the mainstream media can be heard online. What will you do to ensure the Internet remains free and open?