Online public consultation puts citizens in their elected officials’ shoes by simulating the process they go through in making policy decisions – getting briefed, hearing arguments, coming to decisions – using an online instrument called a “policymaking simulation.” VOP has worked with the Program for Public Consultation to develop simulations on the following issues, give one a try.  At the end of each simulation, please take the opportunity to email your members of Congress and make your voice heard.

U.S. Federal Budget FY 2019

In this survey you will have the opportunity to propose how the US federal budget should be designed for 2019. Congress is currently working on this and you will have the opportunity to make your recommendations for how the decision makers in Washington DC spend our tax dollars.

Sentencing Reform

There is a major debate these days about the number of Americans in prison, prompted by the fact that this number is historically high. As you will see in this policymaking simulation, some people say this has gone too far, while others say it has contributed to the reduction in crime.

Campaign Finance Reform

Evaluate arguments and offer your recommendations on proposals related to the following topics surrounding Campaign Finance Reform. Each survey takes between 3-5 minutes to complete.

Offshore Drilling

This survey evaluates pro and con arguments for a new proposal to allow drilling in offshore areas that have been previously banned or limited, as well as a proposal to eliminate the requirement that companies hire independent auditors to conduct inspections. It also asks respondents to weigh in on the waivers requested by governors that would keep in place the ban on offshore drilling for their states. Finally, respondents are asked their views on the proposal to renew the tax oil companies payment to a fund to cover the cost to clean up an oil spill when necessary, and raise the amount from 9 cents to 10 cents per barrel.

Solar Panel Tariffs

As you may have heard, there is a debate about whether the U.S. should impose a tariff (like a tax) on solar panels imported from other countries, especially from Asia.

Ground-Level Ozone

In this survey, we’d like your opinions about some current issues regarding Ground-Level Ozone. Ozone is a key factor that creates smog and is harmful to humans. States are currently required to undertake a step-by-step plan for lowering their maximum allowed ozone levels. Get briefed on the pro and con arguments regarding the proposal in Congress to delay this requirement for eight years, and make your final recommendation.

Net Neutrality

The FCC recently voted to reverse a set of existing regulations known as ‘net neutrality.’ Learn the arguments for and against net neutrality and determine whether you favor or oppose the FCC’s plan reverse the existing regulations.

Independent and Third Party Candidates

As a Federal District Court considers a claim that the Commission on Presidential Debates should eliminate requirements that plaintiffs say effectively excludes a third, unaffiliated candidate from participating in the presidential debates, this simulation gives you an opportunity to weigh in on proposals for making it more possible for a third candidate to participate in the presidential debates and efforts to make it more possible for independent and third party candidates to compete in Congressional elections.

Changing the Way Public Officials are Elected 

Congress is considering a number of bold reforms to change how members of Congress are elected, including redrawing congressional districts by independent citizen commissions, ranked choice voting and multi-member districts. These three reforms comprise new legislation – The Fair Representation Act – sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA.) and cosponsored by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN.), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD). In this survey, respondents evaluate pro and con arguments about each of the reforms.

Evaluate arguments and offer your recommendations on proposals related to the following topics:

Each survey takes between 3-5 minutes to complete.


Immigration Reform

In this survey, respondents to evaluate a number of options for changing the US system for legal immigration. The US system for legal immigration provides selected non-US citizens with the right to reside in the United States on a permanent basis by providing them with what is commonly known as a “green card.” This also gives them the right to work and the obligation to pay taxes. As you will see, some people argue that the number of legal immigrants to the US should be reduced, others say the number should be increased. There are also proposals for changing the way that immigrants are selected. In each case, you will be presented information about the proposal, offered arguments in favor of and against the proposal, which you will evaluate how convincing or unconvincing you find them, and then you will be asked to evaluate the proposal.

Alexander-Murray Changes to ACA

This survey presents the three key provisions of the Alexander Murray bill, that addresses issues with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and asks respondents to evaluate arguments for and against each provision.  These include reversing the Trump administration cuts for outreach and education for the ACA exchanges,  a provision for health-care cost subsidies for low-income people, and a provision for allowing Americans over the age of 30 to obtain lower end ‘copper’ healthcare plans (which is now less relevant since the individual mandate was repealed in the recent tax reform legislation).

Lobbying Restrictions and Former Presidents

This simulation focuses on legislation to extend the waiting period prohibiting for former Members of Congress from lobbying Congress after leaving office.  Another set of questions presented a proposal to end the financial support for former US Presidents, as called for in H.R. 2298 sponsored by Rep. Sensenbrenner [R-WI-5].  Currently, former US Presidents get financial support to cover the ongoing costs associated with the activities of being a former president, including office space, staffing and travel.

Addressing the Medicare Shortfall

In the course of doing this simulation, you will learn many interesting things about Medicare so your recommendations about how to address the Medicare shortfall will be well informed. This simulation will take about 25 minutes to complete. Everything you will see has been reviewed by experts and Congressional staffers, both Democrats and Republicans, so you can be assured that it is factual and balanced. Afterwards, you’ll be given the opportunity to share what you’ve learned with your Congressional representatives, if you choose to.

Federal Poverty Programs

Go through our policymaking simulation on federal Poverty programs to learn about the issues, hear pro and con arguments, and then decide which reforms you want Congress to adopt. If you wish, you can share what you learn with your representatives in Congress.

Social Security Reform

Go through our policymaking simulation on Social Security Reform to learn about the issue, hear pro and con arguments, and then decide which reforms you want Congress to adopt. If you wish, you can share what you learn with your representatives in Congress.

Energy and Environment

One of the challenges we face today is that the way we produce energy has some negative impacts on the environment. In this survey, we would like to introduce some proposals for changing the way energy is produced and used to reduce air pollution and reduce production of greenhouse gases. We will give you some background on these issues, introduce you to both sides of the debate on these proposals, and then give you a chance to make your recommendations. At the end of the survey, you will have an opportunity to forward your recommendations to your members of Congress.

The Defense Budget

The Program for Public Consultation developed a policymaking simulation that provides a briefing on the defense budget from diverse perspectives, along with arguments for and against cutting spending levels by category. Working online, you can go through this exercise and specify your preferred level in each area, and make your own defense budget.

The Federal Budget

How would you reshape the U.S. Federal Budget? Try this policymaking simulation and learn about the tough decisions on revenues and spending that are facing Congress as they determine the FY2017 Budget.

Postal Service Reform

It may not sound glamorous, but postal reform has serious fiscal implications for the federal government, and is an issue that has Democrats and Republicans in Congress at loggerheads.  See if you can fix the problem in our simulation.

The Iran Deal: Continue or Withdraw?

This brief simulation provides information on the main terms of the deal that was negotiated between Iran, the U.S. and other world powers over Iran’s nuclear program, as well as arguments for and against withdrawing and arguments for and against continuing with the deal. Should the U.S. withdraw or continue with the deal?