Contacting Your Elected Representatives – The Basics
As citizens, we have the right to petition our government and make our voices heard on important policy issues. Representatives and senators are very busy people—so busy, they often do not have the time to read the contents of the bills they sign or research how their constituents feel about them. Calling or writing are the best ways to make your opinion known.
Writing / Emailing
Letters should be addressed to your representative’s office, locally or in Washington, DC. The NSS Legislative site has a box at the bottom of the home page for you to input your zip code and obtain the names and addresses of all of the elected officials for your district. Here are some basic guidelines for getting your message across and taken seriously:
- Identify yourself as a constituent, come to the point quickly, and keep your letter to one page. You can include attachments or enclosures (articles backing up your point), but do not overwhelm the reader.
- If you do not know the senator/representative’s position, ask what it is and offer factual evidence why she or he should support your view.
- Avoid profanity or insults. If you disagree with your representative’s position, state your objections clearly and provide facts to explain why you believe she or he should support your view.
- If you know of a particular bill under consideration in the Senate or Congress, reference that bill in your letter so the reader will know that your issue is timely.
- Send in a typed or neatly handwritten letter on clean white paper or stationery.
- Remember that in most cases “the reader” will be a member of the representative’s staff, not the representative personally; however, address your letter to the representative or senator.
- Provide contact information, including home address and phone, especially if you want someone to contact you.
- Identify yourself as a constituent and ask to speak with the member of the staff responsible for researching and tracking the senator/representative’s position on your particular issue. Remember or write down the staffer’s name in case you need to call back or follow up.
- Assume that you will speak with a staffer, not the senator/representative personally. Due to the demands members of Congress face, the staffer will likely know more about the issue anyway.
- As with your written correspondence, you should remain polite in your dealings with congressional staff. Insults, bullying, yelling, or profanity will hurt, not help your case.
- At the end of the call, thank the staffer for their time and ask if you can be of further help to them in researching your issue.
After contacting your senator or congressperson, email the results of your conversation to Rick Zucker so the NSS Policy Committee can track Congress’s position on a particular bill or issue. Thank you for getting involved and supporting NSS!