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When Writing Your Congressional Representatives

Your correspondence with your representative and senators is important! Do not underestimate the importance of writing them. 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 the letters, telegrams, and E-mails 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 representative is not difficult. A well-worded and factually persuasive letter can cause an elected official to review or reevaluate his/her position on an issue. Such correspondence has even been known to cause a change in position or vote. On the other hand, communicating your support on an issue can reinforce and strengthen a representative's position and it gives him/her visible evidence of constituent support.

Reasons for Writing

  • 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 secure a commitment on an issue.
  • To seek assistance and support as a constituent; these may be forwarded to a government agency or department for further research.
  • To obtain information or ask questions.

Important Courtesies

  • Be friendly. Politicians are human, too. Be polite. He/she deserves respect. Don't be nasty even if you disagree.
  • Be reasonable. Don't ask for the impossible, never threaten, especially with your vote.
  • Don't demand a final or immediate commitment.
  • Be appreciative. Say "thank you", especially when you agree with a vote or position.

Format

  • Address your letter properly; the recipient's name and address should be on the letter and the envelope:
  • Honorable John Doe Honorable Joe Smith United States Senate United States House of Representatives Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20515 Dear Senator Doe: Dear Mr. Smith:
  • Proper spelling of the name of your elected representatives can be obtained from your local library.
  • Always write legibly or type if possible; it's preferred that you use one side of your paper.
  • Use your personal stationery.
  • Make sure your full return address is written on the letter and on the envelope since envelopes are often separated from their letters.
  • Sign your letter above your printed or typed name. This will insure the correct spelling of your name.
  • Indicate your title if you prefer its use (such as Post, District, County Council or State Commander, etc.)
  • Keep a copy of your correspondence and any materials that you include for your personal record.

Content


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. If supporting legislation, say so and why; if against it, say so and why. Support your position with facts.

Express yourself clearly. Your legislators should not have to figure out what you are trying to say. 

Be brief and to the point. Limit it to a single page if you can. Emphasize the main points of the issue. Offer to provide further information if desired.

Discuss one subject in a letter. This will highlight the issue's importance and avoid confusing letters.

Identify subject clearly. Provide a brief description of the issue. Give name of legislation and bill number if known.

Strategy


Concentrate on your own elected Representative and two Senators, but don't neglect the Chairmen of committees and subcommittees having jurisdiction over your issue.

Let it be known if you are a constituent by your address. If you are away from your home, it is especially important to let him/her know.

Be constructive, Help seek a solution to what may be a difficult issue. If you feel certain legislation is the wrong approach, explain a better approach.

Avoid becoming a "pen pal". Quality not quantity is important. Don't write on every issue 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.

If the response that you receive seems non-committal 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.

 

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