Yesterday, I had the interesting experience of heading down to Olympia to meet with legislators at Washington State Capitol. I went with Carbon Washington, an organization actively promoting Initiative 732. I-732 is a bill that would add a tax on carbon emission and reduce sales tax, keeping the tax revenue neutral. It is a grassroots initiative started by economists and environmentalists. The theme of this initiative came across as so attractive to average citizens who care about the environment that my immediate response was: “Why not? I support this. If this is adding a tax burden to certain companies, then it’s a natural way to push the innovation and efficient operation of their business.”
I was impressed by the people who are actively working on this bill to help improve the environment, but it made me wonder about ways that they can ensure that this bill will pass.
The median voter theorem states “a majority rule voting system will select the outcome most preferred by the median voter.” Like in every voting scenario, there will be two parties both arguing their position, and there will be people in the middle who haven’t formed a strong opinion on either side.
The first thing required to convince median voters to vote for the bill is awareness of the issue. For example, I did not know about Initiative 732 before this class. Since this bill is something that will help not only the current generation but also future generations, they should engage more young people. Actively working on social media is a good way to approach younger generations. The Ice Bucket Challenge is one of the most successful examples of using social media to help make people aware of a cause, in this case, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Carbon Washington can imitate that kind of action and spread the message on social media by doing some interesting promotions. This will catch the attention of median voters, without requiring much cost.
Next, how can we let median voters help Carbon Washington? The solution is to make the effort easy. I believe that the median voters Carbon Washington should target for this particular issue are working people, who don’t have too much to gain or lose with the proposed political and economic changes the bill would bring forth, but who care about the environment in the long run. Not everyone can dedicate their time and energy to going down to Olympia to talk to their legislators to influence decisions. But anyone can easily send an email to his or her legislators to express their support. It will only take one or two minutes. Carbon Washington could encourage those that saw the social media post to simply send an email to their legislator to support it. By doing this in volume, it can certainly help to achieve Carbon Washington’s goal and help everyone get a chance to make the world a little bit better.