Writing Your Congressional Representatives
Your correspondence with your Representatives and Senators is important, and therefore should not be underestimated. Indeed, such correspondence is a responsibility, even an obligation you should assume when you elect a public official. After all, how can your elected members of Congress effectively represent you if you fail to inform them of your views? Many representatives and senators recognize that letters, emails, and faxes they receive from voters back home are among their best sources for learning and understanding the views of their constituents.
Writing effective letters to your elected representatives is not difficult. A well-worded and factually persuasive letter can cause an elected official to review or reevaluate his or her position on an issue. Such correspondence has been known to cause a change in position or vote. Communicating your support on an issue, also can reinforce and strengthen a representative's position and gives him or her visible evidence of constituent support.
Here are some basic guidelines to follow when you sit down to write:
- To express your views on an issue and to help your elected representatives understand your position as a constituent.
- To solicit his/her views and position on issues.
- To seek a commitment on an issue.
- To seek assistance and support as a constituent.
- To seek information or ask questions.
- To express appreciation for a job well done or for a particular vote.
- Be friendly, politicians are human too.
- Be polite.
- Be reasonable, don't ask for the impossible.
- Don't threaten, especially with your vote.
- Don't demand a final or immediate commitment, legislation is a complicated process.
- Be appreciative, say "thank you", especially when you agree with a vote or position.
- Address your letter properly; the recipient's name and address should be on the letter and envelope.
- Proper spellings of the names are located on this page.
- Always write legibly or type if possible; it's preferred that you just use one side of your paper.
- Make sure your full return address is written on the letter and on the envelope since envelops are often separated from their letter.
- Sign your letter above your printed or typed name. It is often difficult to read people's signatures; this will ensure correct spelling of your name.
- Keep a copy of your correspondence and any material that you include for your personal records.
- Send a personal letter IN YOUR OWN WORDS. These are far more effective than letters from an obvious mass mailing campaign. Avoid any appearance of a form letter. Remember: it is your opinion that your representative is interested in.
- State your reason for writing; be specific!
- Express yourself clearly.
- Be brief and to the point.
- Discuss only one subject, don't confuse the issue.
- Identify subject clearly; give name of legislation and bill number if known. (Remember that some 20,000 bills are introduced in Congress).
- Be constructive, help seek a solution.
- Share your expertise, if knowledgeable on a certain issue, describe your expertise.
- Avoid becoming a "pen pal"; don't write merely for the sake of writing.
- After stating your position, ask for his/her position on the legislation or issue.
- Don't send carbon copies to your other elected representatives; each one deserves a personal letter.
- Be patient; if you don't receive a response in a reasonable time, send a follow-up note and enclose a copy of your original letter.
- If the response that you receive seems noncommittal or evasive, politely write back for clarification.
Timing of Your Correspondence
- Timing is important; write when your views can have the greatest impact. If writing about a specific bill. Write while the bill is in committee: thus, there is still time for effective action.
- When public hearings are anticipated and it seems appropriate, request that your elected representative testify in support of your position as a constituent.
- Monday and Friday usually have the heaviest mail, so try to time receipt of your letter between Tuesday and Thursday.
Remember: Be Brief: Be Clear, and Be Courteous.
©2007 Pete V. Domenici · Privacy Statement