Writing your elected officials is important because it allows you to explain how a particular issue affects you and to express your support or opposition to a proposed law, policy, or course of action. It provides accountability for the elected officials so that they know their constituents are aware of what they are doing and have a genuine interest in how they do their jobs. Here are five easy tips to help you contact your elected official.
(1) Be brief.
Elected officials are busy and get a lot of letters and emails. The best way to make sure your letter gets read is to keep it short and to the point. If at all possible, stick to one issue per letter.
(2) Be clear.
Identify yourself and any relevant organization with which you are affiliated. State whether they are your representative.
State your position up front and what you would like him or her to do; don’t make them guess what you are trying to say. Explain what your understanding of the issue is. If you are writing about pending legislation, be sure to include the bill or resolution number so they know to what you are referring.
Explain why the issue is important to you and how it will impact you, your family and friends, and your community. Support your position with facts as much as possible. Avoid “I believe” or “I feel” statements. If you are writing in opposition to legislation, offer an alternative course of action if possible.
(3) Be accurate.
Proofread your letter or email before you send it. Make sure you have their correct title and address, whether postal or email. Include a way for them to write back or reply to you.
(4) Be timely.
The best times to contact your representatives are just before an election, just before an important vote, before or during a budget process, or immediately after the representative has done something you approve or disapprove of.
It does no good to send an email or letter after a vote has already taken place. Stay up-to-date on relevant legislation. The NCHLA has relevant Action Alerts as do local bishops conferences such as the Missouri Catholic Conference. Most also allow you to receive email notifications when action is needed, so sign up.
(5) Be grateful.
If at all possible, thank your representative for any past support in your letter.
Also, be sure to follow up, particularly if he or she takes the position you wanted. Regardless of whether your letter changed his or her mind, letters of appreciation go a long way in encouraging him or her to take a similar stance in the future.