One of the most important steps in bringing about economic reforms is letting your Member of Congress and U.S. Senators know how you feel about issues that have an impact on your community’s financial well-being. Unfortunately, many voters don’t take the time to let their elected officials know how they feel–and that’s a mistake. You’d be surprised how effective communication from a home district can be, especially to those who follow a few common-sense guidelines.
Determining who your member of Congress is…
Because of the recent redistricting and changes from the 2012 election, many voters are confronted with new and somewhat unknown representatives. If you’re not sure who your U.S. Representative is, click HERE. You’ll be able to enter your zip code and determine your member of Congress.
Email, written letter or a call?
Members of Congress are incredibly busy people with great demands for their time and attention. So a direct conversation via phone or email simply is not a practical consideration. However, each congressman has a staff who should be trained and capable of handling listening to and communicating your concerns. So understand that often when you send a letter or email or call a congressional office, you’ll be communicating with a staff member whose job it is to listen to you and convey your concerns.
Many congressmen prefer to use a contact-form system rather than email to control spam and keep better tabs of their constituents views. At the bottom of this page is a table containing links to members of Congress’ website, their DC phones and links to contacts forms for online communication.
No matter what form of communication you choose, please remember these suggestions:
1. If you’re sending a letter, open it with an appropriate salutation. For a Representative or Senator, “To the Honorable Mark Kirk,” or using his/her title (“Dear Senator Kirk”) is acceptable. And make sure your full name and address is on the letter itself – envelopes get lost. You need to be sure they can verify if you are a constituent or not and send you a response.
2. Get to the point and keep it short. Make sure the first line of the letter summarizes why you are writing and what it is that you want. If you’re writing to praise a lawmaker for his/her position on a key economic issue (always a good idea!), don’t bury that praise deep inside a long letter, Likewise, if you are encouraging a change of position, don’t make the staffer reading the mail go though long missives that have no bearing on what you want.
3. When possible, back it up with facts. Facts cited from qualified sources can support your position much better than pure opinion. Personal stories CAN be appropriate. If you can tell a story of how this issue affects you or your family specifically, that helps to “bring it home.” Politicians love to be able to call out their constituents by name and put a face on the cause. This also helps to develop a more personal connection between you and your representative.
4. As Aretha Franklin spelled out: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Members of Congress deserve respect no matter their views may differ from yours. And now, with the nation’s heightened awareness of terrorism and violence, venting frustrations too harshly could be construed as a threat. Unless you enjoy the prospect people in dark suits and sunglasses knocking on your door, keep it civil.