As citizens, we have the right to petition our government and make our voices heard on important policy issues. Representatives and senators are very busy people—so busy, they often do not have the time to read the contents of the bills they sign or research how their constituents feel about them. Calling and writing are the best ways to make your opinion known.
Finding out who your Representatives are:
The easiest way to do this is to go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/. This is an official government website. You first enter your five digit zip code, and if multiple matches come up, you can enter your address or full zip code to get to the correct person. Once you find the Representative’s name you can click on the link to go to their web site.
Finding out who your Senator is:
The easier way to do this is to look at the list at: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm. You can enter your state and quickly find the Senators from that state. There is an active link that takes you to the Senator’s web sites.
All the Congressional web sites will have a “Contact” menu with a form to allow you to easily send email. Be aware that Representatives NO LONGER look at emails from outside their districts. Be prepared to provide your name, address, and zip code before you are allowed to send an email. Using a “fake” address or name will result in the message being ignored.
All the Congressional web sites will have a “Contact” menu that lists phone numbers for both the DC office and in-state/district offices. Be prepared to provide your name, address, and zip code before you are allowed to leave a message. Generally, unless you are a VIP, calls from out-of-state or out-of-district will be ignored. Using a “fake” address or name will result in the message being ignored.
Letters aren’t sent that much these days, but if you want to do this the same “Contract” menu will list the USPS addresses to facilitate this. Letters should be addressed to your representative’s office, locally or in Washington, DC.
What to write
Here are some basic guidelines for getting your message across and taken seriously:
- Identify yourself as a constituent, come to the point quickly, and keep your message under one page. You can include attachments or enclosures (articles backing up your point), but do not overwhelm the reader.
- If you do not know the senator/representative’s position, ask what it is and offer factual evidence why she or he should support your view.
- Avoid profanity or insults. If you disagree with your representative’s position, state your objections clearly and provide facts to explain why you believe she or he should support your view.
- If you know of a particular bill under consideration in the Senate or Congress, reference that bill in your letter so the reader will know that your issue is timely.
- Send in a typed or neatly handwritten letter on clean white paper or stationery.
- Remember that in most cases “the reader” will be a member of the representative’s staff, not the representative personally; however, address your letter to the representative or senator.
- Provide contact information, including home address and phone, especially if you want someone to contact you.
What to say on the Telephone
- Identify yourself as a constituent and ask to speak with the member of the staff responsible for researching and tracking the senator/representative’s position on the particular issue. Remember or write down the staffer’s name in case you need to call back or follow up.
- Assume that you will speak with a staffer, not the senator/representative personally. Due to the demands members of Congress face, the staffer will likely know more about the issue anyway.
- As with your written correspondence, you should remain polite in your dealings with congressional staff. Insults, bullying, yelling, or profanity will hurt, not help your case.
- At the end of the call, thank the staffer for their time and ask if you can be of further help to them in researching your issue.
After contacting your senator or congressperson, email the results of your conversation to email@example.com so the NSS Policy Committee can track the impact of the PAN alert. In some cases someone from the PAN network may request that you do follow-up tasks related to your first contact.
Thank you for getting involved and supporting NSS!