Your elected officials—from U.S. senators and representatives, to state senators and legislators, to county and city supervisors, mayors, and council members—are all in office for one reason: to represent you. They need and want to hear from you.
WHO REPRESENTS YOU
It is always best to write to the elected official who represents your district. Each Washingtonian is represented by:
- Two U.S. senators http://senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=WA
- One U.S. Congress representative http://www.house.gov/writerep/
- One Washington state senator http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rosters/Members.aspx
- Two Washington state legislators http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rosters/Members.aspx
- And local county and/or city supervisors, mayor and council members http://www.mrsc.org/cityprofiles/searchcityofficials.aspx
For state legislators use the following templates for sending hand written letters
P.O. Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
P.O. Box 404 [leg district]
Olympia, WA 98504-04[leg district]
WHAT TO WRITE
Keep it Brief
Your letter should address a single topic. Generally one page, about three paragraphs, is enough to convey your message.
Keep it Polite
Courtesy is more persuasive than contempt. Your good points can be lost if the elected official or aide reading your letter encounters anger. Never use vulgarity or profanity.
THREE MAIN POINTS
First, say why you are writing and who you are. It is important to let the elected official know you reside in their district, or they will likely ignore your letter. List your credentials: you are a constituent, or you represent a local organization, or you have some professional expertise on the subject matter of the legislation. Have you ever voted for this elected official? Have you ever contributed time or money to his campaign? Are you familiar with him through any business or personal relationship? If so, tell your elected official or his staff person. The closer your legislator feels to you, the more powerful your argument is likely to be.
Second, provide details. Explain facts about the legislation or how it will affect you personally. Tell your elected official why this legislation matters in their community. If you have one, include a personal story that shows how this issue affects you and your family. A constituent’s personal stories can be very persuasive as your legislator shapes his or her position.
Identify the issue about which you are writing. If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, it helps to identify it by its bill number (e.g. H.R. ____ or S. _____). On many topics, the ACLU-WA will have “talking points” that provide you with the bill number and title, and information about the legislation. Check the ACLU-WA Action Center for more information. If no talking points are available, do your homework; make sure you fully understand the issue and what you are requesting. Remember, elected officials handle hundreds of issues a year, and they may not be experts on the issue you are addressing. Here are two good resources for researching pending bills:
- For information about legislation in Olympia:http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/
- Sign up for E-mail Action alerts
Third, ask for the specific action you want; for example, a “yes” or “no” vote in committee or on the floor, that hearings be held, or that someone be appointed. And politely ask that you’re elected official respond and inform you of her or his position. In closing, it is helpful to provide your home address so that the elected official knows you reside in the district and can respond to you. A phone number and/or e-mail are helpful but not essential.
Finally, you can visit your official at their district office.