Writing or Sending E-mail to Your Senators or Representative
Communicating with your legislator through the mail or the net is less effective than speaking with your legislator in person, but it has the advantage of being much easier for you. All you have to do is sit down at your computer (does anyone use a typewriter anymore?), bang out a letter, and stick it in the mail.
The down side is that your letter is seldom read by the person you are sending it to. Members of Congress have three or four people on their staff who do nothing but answer the mail. The volume of mail pouring into most legislative offices is overwhelming, and your representative simply lacks the time to personally read and answer your letter. Almost all letters are answered using computers; only rarely does a congressman actually read his mail, and rarely signs his own letters. Good legislative offices tally incoming letters and present the legislators with the totals on given issues.
Conscientious legislators will do their best to ensure that the mail is turned around quickly. In many offices, procedures are in place to insure that “important” letters are funneled to the legislator. “Important” letters are usually defined as letter from large donors, personal friends, other elected officials, employers, union leaders and other community leaders.
Remember, in most cases, staffers will be handling your letter. Try to make their jobs easier, and design your letter to stand out from the clutter.
Some helpful hints:
- Write your letter on your business letterhead. If you’re emailing, send the email from your company email if possible. This lets the staffer know that you, the writer, are not just speaking for yourself, but for the whole company.
- Get right to the point.Rambling is a time waster for both you and your reader. Succinctness is more important than style and rhetoric. If you’ve met either the legislator or the staff member that regularly handles the issue, personalize the letter by briefly recalling that, i.e. “When we met on the new tax proposal in Senate Bill 18 back in June…”
- Your purpose for writing should be in the first paragraph. If you are writing about a specific piece of legislation, be sure to include the bill number, i.e. House Bill 3645 or Senate Bill 18. Be clear about your position, using short examples to build your case.
- Don’t try to jam too much into your letter. Keep your letter or email to a page. If the issue is complicated, enclose or attach additional material. If you try to put too much into your letter, it will not be read. Highlight the important issues, and leave the details to your enclosed or attached materials. Try to confine yourself, if possible, to no more than one issue per letter- it means your letter is more likely to be accurately tallied.
- Let your legislator know the potential impact of his vote. If his vote will mean more jobs in his district, he will want to know. Conversely, if his legislation will hurt your business, he needs to know that too. In action can have consequences as well.
- Addressing Correspondence
To a Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
___(Room #)_____ House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington D.C. 20515
To a Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
__(Room #) _____Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington D.C. 20510
Note: When writing to the chair of a Committee, it’s proper to address your letter
Dear Mr. Chairman or Madam Chairwoman:
- To find your elected officials’ email addresses, check their web sites.