Write Your Legislator
Letters and e-mails can be particularly effective in influencing legislators’ views. Writing to legislators also offers an opportunity to maintain contact and keep your issues on the front burner, even when you cannot meet personally.
- Keep letters to one page. Try to discuss only one bill or issue in a letter.
- Begin with an introduction of yourself or the organization on whose behalf you are writing. Use a simple statement, such as “I am a professor at _______ college” or “On behalf of the members of the ________.”
Get to the Point
Follow your introduction with a brief statement of your issue or concern, such as “We urge your support for education _____, which will ________.” If you are writing in reference to a specific bill, include the bill number. Follow your opening paragraph with a concise explanation of why you support or oppose the particular bill or issue. A few strong, well-thought-out arguments are much more effective than a laundry list of reasons to support or oppose a bill. Whenever possible, use bullet points to outline your arguments.
Relate it to Home
Help the legislator understand why your position is important to his or her constituents. Include specific facts about how a bill will impact educators, students or schools in the legislator’s district. If possible, include a local anecdote illustrating the problem you are seeking to address. Avoid the use of form letters or generic postcards — use your own knowledge and experience to inform the legislator.
Allow for Follow-up
Include specific contact information and offer to act as a resource should the legislator or staff have questions or need additional information. Where appropriate, state in the letter that you will follow up with a telephone call.
Address your letter correctly — See the details on addressing your letter below.
E-mail can be an easy and effective tool for communicating with legislators. The tips outlined above for writing letters to legislators also apply to e-mails: keep them brief and to the point, with facts and anecdotes relevant to the legislator’s district.
Avoid informal language — E-mail to a legislator should be treated as seriously as a written letter. Resist the temptation to use the informal language and symbols often associated with e-mail communications. Never use impolite language or make “demands.”
Include your full address and zip code — Make sure the text of your e-mail includes your full name and street address, including zip code. Many legislative offices screen e-mails for address information identifying the sender as a constituent. E-mails that appear to come from outside the district are unlikely to be read and may be blocked by filtering programs.
ADDRESSING WRITTEN CORRESPONDENCE
United States Senators
The Honorable (full name) United States Senate Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator (last name)
For Members of the U.S. House of Representatives
The Honorable (full name) U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative (last name)
Take Action Now!
US House: www.house.gov
- Put in your zip code to find your Representative and be prepared to use your plus 4 zip code if necessary. You can also look up your Representative by State or Last Name by selecting Representatives.
- Select Committees to find Hearings and Mark-ups of legislation.
US Senate: www.senate.gov
- Select Senators to find your Senators by State or Last Name.
- Select Committees to find Hearings, Mark-ups of legislation, and Confirmations of Political Appointments.
The United States Post Office: www.usps.com
- Use this to find your +4 Zip Code.
White House: www.whitehouse.gov
Supreme Court of the United States: www.supremecourt.gov