Effective Communication With Your Elected Officials
As an American, one of your most important civic duties is to help elect the representatives who represent you and your community in our government, but your role does not end at the polls. By sharing your opinions and ideas with your elected officials, you make your voice heard on the issues that matter the most to you and you help them decide what action to take. Elected officials value your suggestions from their constituents and concerned citizens and they encourage your input! How can you be sure your voice is heard? Here are some helpful tips below.
• Know who your representatives are and how to contact them. If you don’t know who represents you, you can find them by visiting (link to this page – Find my elected officials) and following the link under the ‘Representatives’ tab.
• Make an effort to understand the legislative process. You don’t have to be an expert, but a basic understanding of the process will help you effectively express your ideas. Remember, all laws begin as ideas.
• Contact your representative about a particular issue before a vote or other action is taken. Most matters coming before any legislature are well publicized well in advance.
• You might choose to call, email, write a letter, or even visit your representative in their district office. You may also choose to give testimony at public hearings held.
• Tell your representative what effect you think a particular bill, if it becomes law, will have on you, your children, business, or community. Be concise, but specific.
• Always remember to be polite with the representative you are communicating with, even if you disagree strongly with them. Your communication will be more effective if you are reasonable in your approach. Remember, “sugar goes further than salt”.
• Suggest a course of action and offer assistance, if it is appropriate. Making promises or threats, will never help you communicate your position effectively.
Writing Effective Letters
Address letters to Members of the House of Representatives as follows:
• The Honorable John Doe
Address letters to Senators this way:
Senator Jane Doe
• Be absolutely certain you spell your Representative’s name correctly and use the correct address. If you don’t, you could lose your audience or your communication may not reach them in time.
• Type or print legibly. Sign your name, print your name under your signature, and provide your address accurately, so he or she can respond.
Keep your communications brief, no more than one (1) page. Concise written correspondence is more likely to grab and keep the reader’s attention.
• State the issue and or your opinion at the beginning of the communication, so that it can be seen and understood quickly. Back up your opinions with supporting facts and or factual information.
• Cover only one (1) issue per email or letter. If you have another issue to address, write a separate communication.
• Avoid slang, abbreviations, acronyms, and technical jargon, since such terms will only frustrate the reader and make it harder for your communication to be received.
• Avoid sending the same email or letter to multiple representatives. Be sure to personalize each one that you send, to maximize impact.
Calling or Visiting Your Representative
• Plan your call or visit carefully and make an appointment. This will better ensure that you meet with your representative or their staff and that your issue gets heard.
Stay on point and discuss only one (1) issue. Organize your thoughts ahead of time and make notes to help you stay on track.
• Prepare a one (1) page fact sheet concerning your issue to give to your representative if you are visiting with them. Bullet points are always useful. This will help him or her better recall what you have said, after the meeting has ended.