When Should You Contact Your Legislator:
- To urge him/her to introduce and co-sponsor bills, especially early in the legislative session, when he/she are researching and developing policy positions.
- To thank them for their support when they sign on to a bill.
- To ask for a committee hearing.
- To recommend improvements or changes in a bill as it is being considered on the committee level.
- To urge a bill’s passage or defeat when votes occur or House or senate floors.
Handwritten, mailed, or faxed letters are still an effective way to communicate to your legislators in addition to emails.
- Include your postal address, especially on e-mails. Otherwise the office has no way of knowing that you are a constituent.
- Personalize your message: The most direct value comes from a thoughtful letter — especially with your personal experience – generated by a constituent.
- Request specific action: When possible, refer to pending legislation or specific bill numbers.
- Be concise; One-page letters are ideal.
- Be informative: Tell your legislator why this issue is important. Provide brief information to make the issue concrete and very real for your legislator.
Follow up: Call your legislator’s office and ask to speak to the chief aide. Mention your letter and repeat your request. Get a definite yes or no to your request or make plans to get a definite answer in the near future – calling back on a certain day, e.g.
When you call your legislators office, they will ask your name and address. Focus on a specific issue. Have a written statement in front of you to help focus the message. Include a House or Senate bill number if there is one. Be clear about where you stand on the issue so they can make a record of it. Our representatives gets thousands of calls a day. Being clear and concise helps your voice to be heard.
A face-to-face visit with a legislator, elected official, or their staff, is the most effective form of advocacy. This can take some time, and yet it can also be rewarding and interesting. With legislators’ schedules, don’t be let down if you will be meeting with a staff person. Group visits are even more effective and increase the likelihood of getting an appointment.
Legislative Visit Tips:
- Do your homework: Plan to discuss only one or two issues. Assume you will have about 15 minutes. Find out how your legislator has voted on the issue. Get facts about the issue.
- Be polite: Dress professionally and arrive on time.
- Be organized: With your limited time, know the issues you wish to address and stay on point.
- Be brief: Be succinct. If your legislator has questions, you can expand on your remarks. If he/she asks for information you do not have, tell them that you will get that information to them.
- Target your message: Your goal is to make your legislator see how coming to your position serves his/her interest and views.
- Follow up: Write a note to the legislator or staff person thanking them for their time and attention they gave you during the visit. Provide them with any needed additional information in the letter or by phone call, email.