Visiting a legislator’s office, either locally or in Washington, D.C., is the most effective way for a citizen to do advocacy. Congressional recesses are an excellent time to meet locally with your legislator.
- Schedule ahead, preferably at least two weeks in advance, specifying the issue you wish to discuss. Mention a preferred date and length of meeting as well as the number of people coming.
- Choose a specific issue to discuss and assign roles if you are visiting as a group.
- Prepare for the visit by researching information on your legislator’s co-sponsorship of bills and previous votes. The MCC Washington Office is happy to help with this.
- Leave materials. It is useful to bring supporting materials or position papers to leave with the person you meet.
- Write a follow up letter thanking the legislator or staff member for the meeting. Reiterate your position.
- Let the MCC Washington Office know how it went!
Other ways to connect with your elected representatives include phone calls, letters and emails. Letters and emails are an excellent means to educate and persuade your member of Congress. Typed or neatly handwritten letters on personal stationery denote sincere, grassroots interest and generally receive more attention than form letters, postcards, or petitions. Emails are good ways to ensure timely delivery of your views while providing a written record of your communication. When preparing to phone your member it can be helpful to write out a short script outlining the main points you want to cover.
Here are some tips for phone calls, letter, and emails.
- Keep it short and focus on one subject. Discussing current legislation receives more attention than general observations.
- State your purpose and be clear what action you are asking the congressperson to take.
- Identify the bill or issue. It is helpful to summarize and include the bill number or legislation title when referring to a specific piece of legislation.
- Personalize your message. MCC often provides sample letters as part of our action alerts. Personalize them and use them to guide your own letter. Be sure to identify yourself as a constituent and include personal stories and connections to your district.
- Say “well done.” Thank your congressperson when they vote the right way or take a courageous stand.
Most representatives also have Facebook or Twitter accounts and these can be good places to leave short messages letting your representative know that you are concerned about a particular issue.
Action alerts: let you know when legislation is moving
The E-Memo: gives you the highlights each month
A big shout out to the following MCC Washington Office interns in 2012: