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Shaping Public Policy

By Saunders, Mary Ellen | Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, January 1, 2001 | Go to article overview

Shaping Public Policy


Saunders, Mary Ellen, Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences


As I write this article, it is the morning after the 2000 Presidential election. And, it sure does feel like "the morning after." The talk on the subway, in the office, and in the coffee shop surrounds the intrigue of this election and it's yet to be decided results. After the votes are recounted and a "winner" announced, the focus of attention will rightfully turn to some substantive issues that need to be addressed.

The first focuses on the Electoral College and whether its time of usefulness has passed. The results of this election turned on the existence of that body as the popular vote resulted in Vice President Al Gore winning and the Electoral College votes resulted in George Bush winning. Much debate will ensue but the bottom line is this - it will take a Constitutional Amendment to either alter or eliminate the Electoral College.

A more interesting debate has begun on the ethics of exit polling. This is a process where in a random sample of polling stations, approximately one in ten voters who have finished voting, complete a questionnaire that includes demographic information as well as questions regarding their voting choices. These questionnaires are tallied continuously throughout an election day, which allows for results to be announced even before polls close. But what affects do these exit poll results have on voters whose polls have often not yet closed, within the same state? What affect was there on voters when the media was forced to retract already announced results in the case of Florida? These questions, along with many others, will be debated in journalism classes and the halls of the Capitol for many months to come.

The makeup of Congress was decided on November 7th. The Republicans have retained control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, but just barely, and significant issues will need to be addressed by the 107t Congress, including reforms in social security and medicare, reauthorization of education legislation, patients' bill of rights, among others. State and local jurisdictions will also be dealing with issues of concern to all family and consumer sciences professionals. If you want to be effective, or if you are considering getting your students involved with public policy, here are some helpful guidelines to ensure you are well prepared!

Take this opportunity to get involved in policy because your voice, every voice, makes a difference!

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