Citizens Guide for Contacting
Elected Officials and Grassroots Lobbying
Your Senators and Representatives need to hear from you!
Members of Congress and state legislators need to know what constituents think about issues and what citizens want taken on specific legislation. Letters, faxes, telephone calls, e-mails and personal visits are the main forms of voter contact and the prime source of constituency views. Always be courteous, reasonable and respectful in all contact with the elected official and staff. Above all, remember that they represent you! They pay attention when you pay attention to their voting record.
Lobbying by Letter / Fax / E-Mail / Facebook / Text / Twitter
- Keep your letter short and to the point. Make it personal. Use your own words.
- Be respectful. State your views courteously.
- When writing about specific legislation, include the bill number.
- Write legibly and sign your letter. Be sure to include your address in all correspondence.
- Ask for a response. Please send a copy of any response you receive to South Dakota Right to Life. This helps us know what elected officials are telling the public.
- Write a letter of appreciation if the legislator does something of which you approve. Everyone likes to get complimentary letters. They’re effective, too!
- Be persistent. Do not be put off by a negative answer. Follow through. Write again and get others to write.
- When calling a public official, you may either leave a message with his or her secretary, if the official is not available, or request your call be returned.
- Ask your legislator to state his or her position on the issue. As a constituent, you’re entitled to know.
- If the legislator asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, don’t guess. Tell him you’ll provide that information later – and do so.
Tips for Visiting Legislators during Formal Visits
- Make an appointment and be on time.
- Familiarize yourself with the lawmakers voting record.
- The initial visit should be one of introduction and explanation of your interest in the issue.
- Be prepared to answer specific questions on legislation of interest and provide supporting material.
- Listen carefully to the legislator’s views; don’t interrupt if you disagree. You can accomplish more by listening and mentally noting areas of accord and disagreement.
- After this initial contact you have a base from which to contact the legislator again on specific bills.
- Contact the local office for an itinerary of speaking engagements in the district by members of Congress and plan to attend.
- Check your local newspaper for seminars, meetings and other public gatherings where lawmakers will be in attendance. Attend these functions and talk to the legislator about a particular issue.
- This informal contact is extremely important and can be very helpful in establishing a good relationship with the lawmaker.
Questions About Contacting Officials?
South Dakota Right to Life is here to help. If you have any questions about contacting elected officials, please call the state office at 605-224-9181 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org We are available to answer your questions and provide background information and current status of legislation affecting life issues.