Tips for Making Your Voice Heard
For any contact to Representatives:
- Always be polite–speak or write calmly and concisely.
- Address the person by job title: Dear Senator ______, Dear Congressman ______, Dear Representative ______, Dear President ______.
- Email, call, fax or write a letter with only one topic per message. Often, correspondence is organized into pro and con stacks on a particular subject. You don’t want your second issue to be lost. Contact separately about it.
- Tell why this issue matters to you personally. Be specific about how it affects you, your children, or someone you know. Give details about the impact of the issue that make it matter to you. A personal message gets attention.
- At the state level, if they get six or eight communications on one side of an issue, they are likely to consider it a landslide as they so rarely hear from anyone on issues facing them for a vote. Your communications do matter.
What type of communication to use:
- For most representatives, email is regularly checked, so do communicate via email with thoughtful comments that show you are informed on the issue and not just ranting.
- Email is often ignored during a busy session, so a phone call will be better if time is of the essence. This holds true for U.S. Senators and Representatives as well as state officials.
- Letters in the mail get noticed at the state and local level. If there is no immediate crisis, a “snail mail” communication will probably be better than email, as sometimes the email is not checked for a number of days (or even weeks) and is rarely printed off.
- Email, fax or call only (no postal mail) if you are writing to the President, Senators, or Members of the House of Representatives. Since the anthrax incident in 2001, all postal mail must go through a “cooking” process to kill anything dangerous, so it will take a longer time to get your letter read.
- When calling, you may be asked to give your comments to an aide. Be clear about the topic, why it matters to you, and what action you want the official to take.
- Leave contact information clearly if you are required to leave a voice mail message.
Written communication (e-mail or mail):
- Address the person by job title (as stated above).
- List name and address clearly within any written communication (perhaps phone number, also) or leave contact information clearly if you are required to leave a voice mail message when calling.
- Identify your issue in the beginning of your message and what action you want the official to take. Put the topic in the first sentence, if possible, giving the title or the bill number of the proposed legislative action. Example: “Please vote against the bill that would open Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWAR) to drilling for oil.”
- Hand-address the envelope being sent by postal mail to state and local officials. Aides rarely toss aside hand addressed letters.
- Type or hand-write on paper other than white (or with a unique letter head of your own).
- Slightly curl the corner of the letter before you put it in the envelope so it does not get “stuck” behind another in a stack.
- Do not use a form letter even if you think it says it so much better than you could. It will likely be ignored or, at best, put in a pile to be counted.
- A form letter or a signing a petition is better than nothing–but not much better. Do this only if you do not have time to write a real, if short, note of your own on the topic you care about.