Writing a Constituent Letter or Email
Letters, personally drafted emails, and phone calls at critical times before votes, are effective ways to share information, concerns and personal stories with lawmakers. Legislators especially want to hear the views of their own constituents. Do not underestimate how important a short letter or email is to a legislator. Many individuals do not take the time to write, so just a few letters on a particular issue can seem like a groundswell of interest to a state legislator!
- Use personal or business letterhead, if possible. Be sure your name and return address is on your communication.
- An email should be formatted like a letter. Avoid casual email messages unless you have a close, personal relationship with your legislator.
- If you are a constituent, clearly state that fact at the beginning of your letter.
- Be brief. Keep letters concise, ideally no longer than one-page.
- State your reason for writing.
- Be as specific as possible in your request. Express clearly and briefly what action you would like your legislator to take, such as sponsoring a particular bill, supporting a specific funding request or initiative, or voting for or against a piece of legislation. Include bill numbers or other reference information whenever possible.
- Be reasonable and constructive. If you oppose a measure, state clearly why the measure is a concern. If possible, offer an alternative. Include examples or data where possible, being careful not to make any unsupportable claims. Misinformation casts doubt on you and your views.
- Ask your elected official to provide his/her position on the issue in a written reply.
- Be sure to thank the official if he/she votes the way you requested or indicates strong support for your issue. Everyone appreciates – and remembers – a complimentary letter.
Making a Constituent Telephone Call
A telephone call can be effective when you want to record your views on an upcoming vote or when your opinion can be stated very concisely. Calls are NOT an effective way to educate legislators, nor do they provide the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise on an issue. In most cases, receptionists handle the calls and their goal is to simply make a record of the call. Often, when a bill is controversial, they keep a tally of calls for or against a particular issue. When making a telephone call to elected officials, keep the following in mind:
- State your views clearly and succinctly – time is precious for everyone.
- State the number of the bill that you are calling to support or oppose.
- Be polite.
- Conclude your message with a request for action.
- Be prepared to leave your name, address, and telephone number.
- Do not expect a return phone call or response from your legislator.
- If you must leave a voice mail, be sure to include your name, address and specific request.