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Communicating with Your Legislator

The goal of meeting with your legislator is to let them know what your concerns are and that what happens in the Capitol matters at home. Writing, calling and meeting with your legislator is very important. This correspondence is a written record of your views, interests, and positions. Legislators often have their staff attach memos to bills so that they can see who is supporting/opposing bills that they are considering.

Tips on Letter Writing

The letter, in either hard copy or email format, is the most widely used means of communicating with a legislator's office. A good letter can make an impact on a legislator; emails can also make a good impact and should follow the same style as traditional letters. Timing is important. When you want a legislator to take a position on an issue, write to him or her early and before there is a vote on the issue. Here are some tips to help with your letter:

    • Always start with the proper title: Honorable or Representative/Senator
    • Write on only one issue - this keeps the purpose of the letter clear. States its purpose in the first paragraph. If your letter pertains to specific legislation, identify it by bill number.
    • Learn where your legislator stands - state your position clearly. If you know they support your position, thank them. If they oppose your position, give them sound reasons why they should change their minds.
    • Be persuasive and be factual. Provide background documentation you have to support your position. If you do not know the facts or can't produce them, do not guess, you can always get back to them with information.
    • Let your legislator know who you are and who you represent. Say who you represent. If you support or oppose a bill or policy, say so. If you want your legislator to vote a certain way, say so. Be clear about it.
    • Use personal examples. Note how the legislation will affect you, your organization, the groups you serve. Provide real case examples. If you have numbers, such as the number of people the legislation will impact, the dollar figure the impact could have, etc., it is important to include this.
    • Ask for a response to the letter you wrote.
    • Be brief. Try to keep your letter to one page.
    • Be courteous. You do not want to burn any bridges.
    • Write again and often. Write different letters on different issues.
    • Relationships are everything.

Tips for Calling Your Legislator

Telephone calls are fast, easy, and highly personalized ways to express your concerns. Phone campaigns can also be highly effective, and given the speed with which things move in politics, phone calls might be the best option. Some call tips for best results include:

  • Call your legislator at his/her office.
  • Identify yourself and where you are from (school, group name, hometown, etc.)
  • Ask to speak with the legislator or the legislative aide handling the issue of concern. (If neither is available, leave a message with your name, address, and phone number)
  • Keep your comments brief. Be sure to make specific requests of your legislator.
  • Make sure your information is well researched and be ready to send background information to the office.
Tips for Face-to-Face Meetings with Your Legislator

Meeting face-to-face with your legislators is one of the most effective ways to influence their opinions. Often elected officials are strongly swayed by the opinions of constituents. It also shows a sign of commitment and concern for your issue. Some tips on visiting an elected official include:

    • Call your legislator's appointment secretary to schedule a meeting time, and make sure to tell them the issue and how many are attending the meeting.
    • Organize a diverse group from your house/senate district to attend.
    • Be prepared with the main points that reflect your key positions and able to answer questions.
    • Bring information to leave with the legislator.
    • Ask your representative to take a specific action. You will be more effective if you focus on one or two main issues.
    • You may meet with the legislative aide instead of your representative - they are influential and can help with your cause.
    • Keep it short and stick to your points.
    • Send a thank-you note after your visit.
    • Follow-up in a timely manner with any requested materials and information.
Public Hearings and Testimony

The purpose of public hearings and testimony is to give individuals and groups the chance to interact and exchange information and to provide citizens and advocates the opportunity to express their concerns. Some tips for best results include:

  • Identify yourself, the group you represent, the bill number and title, and your position.
  • Be brief and accurate.
  • Use personal examples to make your point.
  • Do not make claims you are not prepared to defend.
  • Prepare a written copy of your testimony with your name and contact information to leave.
  • End by thanking the committee or legislator(s).