Have you ever wanted to give some anonymous feedback about your representatives in the Alaska House and Senate? Do you even know who your representatives are in the legislature anymore? Either way, a doctoral student interning in the state capital wants to hear from you. An online survey underway this session seeks to gauge legislative satisfaction levels for residents of Southeast.
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Jessica McKay, is a doctoral student studying clinical community psychology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She said she got interested in that field of study when she worked at a community mental health center in Sitka. The survey is part of her course work.
“It’s basically just some sort of project where we are working with an organization where we are looking at, how do we make a difference in people’s lives, how do we get some feedback on how this organization is working and kind of possibly making some changes,” McKay said.
“We wanted to reach as many different types of people as possible who either know a lot about the legislative process or not so much at all,” she said. “So it’s asking initially, how often do you vote, do you vote at all? Do you think you can make a difference in government? How do you think the legislators do? What kinds of things do you think they should do?”
The survey asks about whether people have contacted their legislators and how that experience has been. And she also wants to hear if people even know who represents them in Juneau. “As I said we wanted to reach people who know a lot or maybe don’t know much at all. And I’m finding that some people don’t know who their legislator is and that’s fine. That’s all part of this process right is just getting this education out there. And I know with redistricting that has happened over the last year that things can be a little confusing, maybe particularly in Petersburg.”
Legislative districts changed once in 2012 under an interim redistricting plan and they’ll be changing again this year. For Petersburg, that’s meant two years of representation by Juneau legislators. The Juneau senators and representatives have been spreading the word about McKay’s survey. So far she’s received about 450 responses, mainly from Juneau residents, but she’s hoping for more participation from the rest of region.
“What I’m really hoping for is that in the end that it’s really helpful for the legislators and for the constituents,” McKay said. “You know that’s really the point of trying to do this survey is that you let your legislators know kind of how satisfied or dissatisfied you are and if there are changes that can be made. I’ve had some pretty awesome feedback just in the comment section. You know I have one of those general comment sections on the survey and people have really been open about putting some pretty descriptive feedback in there and I’m finding that that’s really important.”
McKay will be collecting responses through the end of March and then will write up a report that she’ll provide to Southeast legislators hopefully by the end of this session.
With help from LP