Communicating with Public Officials
There are many articles about the most effective way to contact your elected officials:
- Daily Kos’ How to Most Effectively Contact Your Representative
- Emily Ellsworth’s How to effectively talk to your member of congress
- Lifehacker’s How to Contact and Properly Communicate with Your Government Representatives
- The New York Times’ Here’s Why You Should Call, Not Email, Your Legislators
But there is no right or wrong way. Our goal is to tell our stories and make our voices heard:
- What Calling Congress Achieves
- This is what it’s like answering all those phone calls to Congress
- What the latest research says about contacting Congress
- Report – Citizen-Centric Advocacy: The Untapped Power of Constituent Engagement
- A former senator explains how regular people can effectively lobby Congress
Calling, emailing and writing a letter are just tools that we use to tell our stories, and if we find a way to tell our stories effectively, then it doesn’t matter if it’s by calling, emailing or writing a letter. Find a way that works for you.
Our page, Elected Officials, provides contact information for elected city, state and federal officials. For members of congress, there are many resources that make the process easier, but here are a few of them:
- Democracy.io sends your emails to Congress.
- FaxZero sends your fax to your representative and senators
turns your text messages into daily letters to Congress.
- Stance delivers your voice message to your congress representative’s voicemail.
Below are some tips about how to communicate with your elected officials and their staff.
For calling an elected official, the Indivisible Guide, Chapter 4 provides guidance and a sample dialogue to help. Below is a sample script courtesy of 5 Calls, but there are other resources such as The 65, Call Them In, and Daily Action.
Hi, my name is [NAME] and I’m a constituent from [CITY, ZIP].
I’m calling today because I’m [in favor of][opposed to] [X bill/issue]. I’m asking [title] [name of elected official] to [vote] [in favor][against] [X bill/issue]. I’m concerned that if [X bill/issue] [doesn’t] [passed], I will [add personal story about impact of X bill/issue].
Thank you for your hard work answering the phones.
[*IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL: please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied*]
For emails, letters and postcards, use a similar script:
Dear [title] [name of elected official],
I’m writing to ask you to [vote] [in favor][against] [X bill/issue]. I’m concerned that if [X bill/issue] [doesn’t] [passed], I will [add personal story about impact of X bill/issue]. Please [vote] [in favor][against] [X bill/issue].
Thank you for your time and consideration.
For writing a more in-depth letter, see Writing Letters to Elected Officials. Lifehacker’s How to Contact and Properly Communicate with Your Government Representatives suggests the following details be included:
* The area you live in.
* Your personal experience and history with the issue. If you have credentials, include those as well.
* Studies and newspaper articles from local sources.
* Your fears if the bill does or does not get passed.
* Your recommended course of action.
The Correspondence Management Division has some guidelines about forms of address to use for the White House and Congress. So do:
- U.S. Government Correspondence Manual, 1992, Chapter 4, Forms of Address
- Washington Governor’s Executive & General Correspondence Guidelines
- National Park Service’s Washington Office Correspondence Manual
Samples of forms of address:
|The Honorable Jane Doe||Dear Mayor Doe:|
|Mayor, City of Olympia|
|The Honorable Jane Doe||Dear Representative Doe:|
|U.S. House of Representative|
|The Honorable Jane Doe||Dear Senator Doe:|
|U.S. State Senate|
A letter sample:
Month DD, YYYY
The Honorable Jane Doe
U.S. House of Representatives
1234 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Representative Doe:
I’m a constituent in your district, and I’m writing to ask you to [insert ask].
[Detail why you’re asking and how the ask impacts you].
Please [insert ask]. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time and consideration.