Guidelines to aid in writing letters to your Representatives, Senators, and other elected officials.
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How To Write To Your Representative, Senator, And Other Elected Officials
Today's congressional work schedule no longer permits the frequent and extended visits back home that used to keep members of Congress in close personal touch with their constituents. As a result, letters from home have become the main form of voter contact, the prime source of constituency views. Your U.S. Senators and Representatives, the President, and your state and local leaders need to hear from you.
Writing an effective letter to your elected officials is not a difficult task. Here are a few guidelines.
1. Write on your personal or business letterhead, if possible, and sign your name over your typed signature at the end of your message.
2. Identify your subject clearly. State the name of the legislation you are writing about. Give the House or Senate bill number if you know it.
3. State your reason for writing. Your own personal experience is your best supporting evidence. Explain how the issue would affect you or your family, business, or profession or what effect it could have on your state or community.
4.Avoid stereotyped phrases and sentences that give the impression of "form" letters. They tend to identify your message as part of an organized pressure campaign and produce little or no impact.
5.Ask the legislator to state his position on the issue in his reply. As his constituent you are entitled to know.
6. Be reasonable. Do not ask for the impossible. Don't threaten. Don't say, "I'll never vote for you unless you do such and such." That will not help your cause; it may even hurt it.
7. Consider the factor of timing. Try to write your position on a bill while it is in committee. Your Senators and Representatives can usually be more responsive to your appeal at that time, rather than later on when a committee has already approved the bill. Of course, this is not always the case. Sometimes your legislator may reserve judgment--and his vote--until the sentiment of his constituency has crystallized.
8. Thank your legislator if he pleases you with his vote on an issue. Everyone appreciates a complimentary letter and remembers it. On the other hand, if his vote is contrary to your position, don't hesitate to let him know. He will remember that too!
Suggested Addresses and Salutations
Senate Office Building
Washington, D. C. 20510
Dear Senator Doe:
The Honorable John Doe
Dear Congressman Doe:
Telephone and Western Union Messages
Often, during the last weeks of the legislative session, there is very little advance notice of hearings on a bill, perhaps only one or two days. In these instances, regular mail would not arrive on time Make use of special delivery or direct dial the legislator's office in the early morning hours (8:00-9:00 a.m.) or between noon and 1:00 p.m.
You can reach the Washington office of any member of Congress by calling the Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) and asking for your congressman or senator by name. If you are unable to speak with the legislator, leave the details of the message along with your name and address with the legislative aide or secretary.
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