Never called your elected representative(s) before? Nervous? The following information courtesy of the Maryland Catholic Conference is provided for those who are calling their elected officials for the first time or the one hundredth time:
Whether visiting, writing or calling your elected officials, be sure to:
- Identify yourself: If you are a voter in the legislator’s district, say so.
- Be specific: State the issue clearly. If possible, refer to a bill number (House Bill # or Senate Bill #) and the bill’s title.
- Be timely: Try to respond as quickly as possible to legislative alerts. Contact your legislators before they vote on an issue.
- Be personal: Let your legislator know why you support or oppose a bill. Tell him or her how the bill will affect you, your family, and your community. Your own experience will be of great value.
- Be reasonably brief: Be considerate of your legislator’s busy schedule. Keep your visits, letters, and phone calls as brief as possible.
- Be polite: Don’t be threatening, demanding or abusive. The first time you are will be the last time a legislator will be attentive to your concerns.
A face-to-face visit is the most effective way to communicate with legislators. Personal contact provides the best opportunity to clearly explain your position on an issue. Positive encounters with constituents are very important to legislators looking ahead to reelection. To help your visit go smoothly:
• Make an appointment and be on time.
• Always be courteous, never argumentative.
• Make clear what your issue and position are and what you would like your legislator to do.
• Provide your legislator with a brief, written summary of your issue.
• Don’t let your legislator evade the issue with small talk; politely get to the point as quickly as possible.
• Follow up the visit with a thank you note.
Every letter you write is extremely important. Many legislators believe that one letter represents the sentiments of at least 100 constituents. When writing to legislators, remember to:
• Keep your letter brief. Write legibly or type.
• Give concrete examples of how you, your family, and your community are affected by a particular issue.
• Include your address and request a response.
Phone, Fax, E-mail
Prior to a committee vote or a Senate or House floor vote, communicating by telephone, fax, or e-mail in favor or in opposition to pending legislation can be effective in influencing a legislator’s vote. When you contact your legislator (if you phone you most likely will speak with an aide) be sure to:
• Provide your name and address.
• Provide the name and bill number of the legislation. Clearly state your position.
• Ask how your legislator expects to vote on the issue.
Information courtesy of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops