The State Of: Writing your Lawmaker
The election of 2022 is behind us, and it is time to prepare for the next session of Congress.
The 118th Congress will usher in close to 80 new senators and representatives, giving many constituents the opportunity to both introduce themselves to a new member and voice their opinion to a returning lawmaker.
Either way, writing a message to Congress (or your state lawmakers) – either an email or letter - is an excellent way to make your voice heard and participate in the democratic process. Many members of Congress keep track of what their constituents are writing about and care about. Remember, they are your elected representatives in Washington, D.C. While you might write on an issue that many of their constituents care about, you likely have a perspective that the lawmaker or their staff have not heard.
A carefully crafted, concise letter is a powerful tool for a constituent.
Here are several questions to ask yourself as you craft your letter.
- Is your lawmaker new to Congress?
- Is your lawmaker undecided on or unaware of the issue you’re writing about?
- Is there a vote on the horizon that deals with your issue?
- Is there a bill you would like your lawmaker to review, consider, introduce or cosponsor?
Follow these easy steps to write your letter:
1. Addressing and Salutation
It is important to address your letter appropriately. Equally important is how you refer to lawmakers in the salutation of your letter.
You can find the name of your senator by going to https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact and the name of your House representative by going to https://www.house.gov/representatives.
When addressing your letter, please use the following format:
- For Your Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room Number) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator (last name):
- For Your House Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room Number) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative (last name):
2. Introduce yourself
Start off with a little bit about yourself: Who you are, where you live, where you work (if appropriate) and how long you have been in the state or district.
3. Why are you writing?
If you are writing to congratulate them on their election, send your congratulations. If you are writing about a specific issue or bill, you should state the purpose of your letter. For example, “I am writing today to voice my support for XXXX.” Support your position. Here you can use a paragraph to explain further why you have made your stance. If you have a personal story, add it, but keep it concise. If you have current statistics that you think the lawmaker needs to hear, include them. And, if others in your state or district would benefit from your stated purpose, make that known as well.
4. Make your ask
After you have provided background on your position or information about a new policy, use the next paragraph to ask your lawmaker to take an action. Do you want them to introduce a bill, cosponsor a bill or defeat a bill in their chamber? This is the time to make your ask. For example, “Supporting research in pediatric cancer is important to me, which is why I am asking you to cosponsor XXXX.”
5. Close the message
Now that you have introduced yourself, stated your purpose in writing, and made your request, you will need to close the letter. Here you can decide whether to be formal or a little more personal.
- For example, for a more simple and formal closing, you can use the following:
“Thank you for taking the time to listen to my point of view. Sincerely, Your Name.”
- Or, for a more personal closing, feel free to use something like:
“Thank you for taking the time to listen to my point of view. Best regards, Your Name.”
Now that you have written your message, give it a quick review. Make sure you have made all the necessary points and have corrected any spelling or grammar mistakes. Remember, your vote counts and lawmakers and their staff are in their position to serve you and truly want to hear from their constituents on issues that are important to them. Keep in mind lawmakers and their staff are quite busy, so it might take some time for you to receive a response, but rest assured you will.
Congratulations on writing your message to Congress!
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