Letters are most effective when they are timely, brief, concise and courteous. Make it easy for the legislator to understand what issue or bill you are writing about, what your position is and what action you would like him or her to take. U.S. postal-delivered mail can sometimes take up to 12 weeks to be delivered as a result of the security and screening process.
E-mail is probably the best way to send your message. It will reach your legislator quickly and not have to be held up being inspected in the mailroom. When sending an e-mail, call ahead and ask for the e-mail address of the person in charge of your issue. E-mail this person directly. While it is common in today's world to be less formal when using e-mail as opposed to mailed letters, this is not the case here. Regardless of how you deliver your message, the same rules apply. Use proper language and proper salutations, even in your e-mail.
Crafting a letter:
- Be sure to use the proper forms of address when writing to government officials.
- State the bill you are writing about or the issue you are concerned with in the first paragraph.
- Be sure to include a bill number if one has been assigned.
- Briefly explain what the bill would do or describe the issue as you understand it.
- Explain how the bill or issue would impact you directly or indirectly. This is your opportunity to personalize the issue for the legislator.
- If you are aware of how the legislator has voted on this issue in the past, remind them of this. ("I know you have supported similar legislation before, and hope you will continue with your support.")
- Conclude by re-stating what action you would like the legislator to take and thanking him or her for their consideration.
All of this can be easily accomplished in a one page letter in most cases. Often, IDF will have a hand-out with more detailed information you can attach to you letter, so please remember to contact us for assistance.
Some "don'ts" to keep in mind:
- Don't tell the legislator you are a voter...they already know where you live and if you are a constituent.
- Don't threaten the legislator with voting against them or promise to vote for them if they support your position. This will turn them off immediately.
- Don't be argumentative or suggest motives for the legislator's actions.
- Don't exaggerate facts, if you have any questions about facts and figures, IDF can help.
If the legislator replies to your letter drop him or her a quick note thanking them for their response. If they support your views, thank them. If they oppose your view, this will give you one last opportunity to change his or her mind.