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Contact your Representative

Contact your Representative

General Rules (Phone Call):

Calling the offices of elected officials at the local, state, or federal level is one of the easiest and most effective ways to communicate with policymakers on issues. Here are a few tips:

1. Identify your local, state, or federal level representative. In general, calls from constituents are given more time and consideration. A constituent is anybody who lives in the district of a congressman. For Senators, a constituent is anybody in their state. For a Representative, it’s a more narrowly defined district.

2. When you call, you'll likely reach a receptionist. Identify yourself as a constituent to the receptionist and clearly state your first and last name, your hometown, and why you are calling.  Ask politely to speak with the staff who handles the issue you're calling about (education, immigration, gun-control, etc.). Sometimes, the receptionist will indicate that you will need to leave your comments with him/her.  If that is the case, you still should ask for the name of the staffer responsible for your issue so that you have it for later.

3. If you get transferred to the staffer or get their voicemail, reintroduce yourself and immediately identify why you're calling. 

4. Make a few brief points about (a) why the issue concerns you, (b) why the elected official should act, and (c) how you want the official to act: be clear and concise. (It's worth having some notes for this part of the conversation)

5. Be polite.

6. Request a written response.

7. Provide your full name, mailing address, email address, and phone number. 

8. If you don't receive a response within a month or so, call or write again!


 

General Rules (Email/Letter):

(Source: http://bebusinessed.com/congress-fax-numbers/)

Faculty/Staff: Please note that letters to representative should be on personal letterhead and include your home address/contact information.

How to Address Your Letter
Start with the date in the upper left-hand corner of the page.

Underneath that, the address information is listed in the following format:

The Honorable (Insert Full Name of Congressman)
(Room #) (Name of Building) (Senate or House) Office Building
United States (Senate or House of Representatives)
Washington, D.C. (20510 zip code for the Senate or 20515 zip code for the House)

Salutation

“Dear Senator” or “Dear Congressman/Congresswoman.”

Are You a Constituent?

In general, letters written from constituents are given more time and consideration. A constituent is anybody who lives in the district of a congressman. For Senators, a constituent is anybody in their state. For a Representative, it’s a more narrowly defined district. If you are a constituent, mention this very early on in the letter.

Do Your Research

No matter what you’re writing them about, you have to know your stuff. If you have any credentials, list them! These could include your education, work history, research, and positions held that lend you credibility on the subject. It can also help to find a few pertinent facts or statistics that drive your point home. Make sure you avoid biased sources, and always list your sources.

Add a Personal Touch

To tie in the above two points, adding your personal story to your letter is invaluable. It’s one thing to write you representative because you’re ideologically for or against a proposed action. It’s another thing entirely to tell them how something could personally affect you, your family or your community. It doesn’t have to be heart-wrenching. Your story will simply help personalize the issue for a congressman who may have no direct experience with the problems of a particular group or demographic.

Keep it Brief

Congressmen and their staff are busy people. It’s important to get to the point quickly and keep the length of your letter to one page (or two if you really have good reason to include more information). Write like a journalist: the first sentence or paragraph should summarize who you are – don’t forget to note if you’re a constituent that lives in their district – and why you are writing. From there you can build into more detail. Close by again summarizing your hope, e.g., you hope they vote YES/NO on "X" Bill.

If you have more than one topic, split it into two separate letters. 

Keep it Professional & Proofread

This includes your tone, spelling and grammar. While you are certainly free to express your frustration or disappointment, be polite.

Write a Positive Note or Thank You Letter

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the obvious. Congressmen receive a lot of negative complaint letters after nearly every action they take. If your congressman voted as you wanted him or her to vote, take a few minutes to write and send a short thank you note (especially if you previously wrote them a letter expressing your opinion).
 

 

Email/Letter Template(s)

Generic

Date

The Honorable (Insert Full Name of Congressman)
(Room #) (Name of Building) (Senate or House) Office Building
United States (Senate or House of Representatives)
Washington, D.C. (20510 zip code for the Senate or 20515 zip code for the House)

Dear Senator/Congress(wo)man:

As a college student and constituent, I am writing to express my (concern/support) for (insert issue/bill); and, I want to urge you to (vote yes/no on this bill) or (support/oppose this issue). 

(State why you support or oppose the bill or other issue. Choose up to three of your strongest points and state them clearly and concisely.)

(Include a brief personal story that illustrates why the issue is important to you and how it affects you, your family and/or your community).

 I look forward to receiving a written response. 

Sincerely,

(Your Name, Mailing Address, Email, Phone)

Executive Order on Immigration

Date

The Honorable (Insert Full Name of Congressman)
(Room #) (Name of Building) (Senate or House) Office Building
United States (Senate or House of Representatives)
Washington, D.C. (20510 zip code for the Senate or 20515 zip code for the House)

Dear Senator/Congress(wo)man:

As a college student and constituent, I am writing to express my concern about the Executive Order on Immigration; and, I want to urge you to oppose this Executive Order. 

I attend the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY. RIT is a global community with campuses all over the world. One of the reasons, among many, I chose to attend RIT was because of its global presence as well as its commitment to inclusivity - to bringing together people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Indeed, RIT reflects our countries values in this way. The United States is a nation of immigrants.

(Include a brief personal story that illustrates why the issue is important to you and how it affects you, your family and/or your community). Perhaps:

  • You have traveled abroad and have a personal reflection about the experience.
  • You have friends or classmates from other countries who have had a positive influence on your life.
  • Your family immigrated to the states recently.

 

 I look forward to receiving a written response. 

Sincerely,

(Your Name, Mailing Address, Email, Phone)