When you contact your elected officials, do you feel like your voice is being heard? Here are some effective ways to ensure you maximize your chances of making a difference when engaging with your representatives in person and online.
Write a letter
Traditionally, the best ways to contact your elected official are by writing a letter or postcard. This shows them in writing that you have concerns and would like them to address the issues you care about.
Numerous organizations hold events where you can get together with like-minded people and fill out postcards to send to your representatives. They’ll often even stamp and mail them for you when you’re done.
For instance, after the Women’s March, the organization spread the word about their efforts to keep the momentum going through their 10 Actions 100 Days campaign, which included writing to your senators.
Emailing is one of the most efficient ways to get in touch with your representatives. After all, you can easily copy and paste to cover all your bases.
Most elected officials – especially at the state and federal levels – will have their contact information prominently displayed on their social media channels and on their respective websites.
Something to keep in mind: when you email your representatives, personalization goes a long way. Discuss your point-of-view from a constructive perspective and expect one of their staffers to be on the receiving end of your messages.
Your elected officials are receiving numerous messages from constituents just like you, so the more concise, specific, and solution-focused your email is, the easier it will be for their staffers to share with your representative.
Call their office
Calling your representatives’ office is one of the most effective ways to be heard. Yes, emailing and writing letters also work, but until you’re able to hear someone on the receiving end, it’s uncertain whether or not your concerns were actually addressed.
Take it from this former Congressional staffer, Emily Ellsworth: “The most effective thing is to actually call them on the phone. At their district (state) office. They have to talk to you there.”
Asynchronous communication like letters and emails afford staffers and representatives more time to send you a response (or worse, ignore you).
When you and your friends jam their phone lines at the state/district level, they will need to pick up and correspond with you. That said, being firm but polite will go a long way when sharing your point of view.
Show up in person
Seeing their constituents in person puts a human face on the concerns of their district, which might otherwise be relegated to purely statistics.
As Ellsworth advised, “If you want to talk to your rep, show up at town hall meetings. Get a huge group that they can’t ignore. Pack that place and ask questions.”
Elected officials schedule town hall meetings for the purpose of gathering constituent input, but sadly, these events can be poorly attended. After all, who has time when life just gets in the way? If you’re part of an advocacy group, spread the word to your fellow members and encourage them to plan on attending.
Another great alternative to attending in person is to tune in virtually. Facebook Live videos are a growing trend in the political sphere. You can watch the whole video once it’s over, but during the live recording, you can interact with what’s happening through comments and even emojis.
Use civic tech
Blending the best of all of these methods is a rise in the use of civic tech. Growing popularity of civic engagement apps like icitizen helps blend the conveniences of online interaction with the firm knowledge of your voice being heard.
You vote in polls on issues that matter to you, and you can also share your policy solutions with others and tag your elected officials to gain their attention.
Then, that quantified feedback is used to drive policy discussions and decisions that will ultimately affect your community. The goal of civic tech is to lower the barriers for people to engage in the political process and amplify their voices.
And there you have it – a short list of the best ways to contact your elected official. Get started by voting in our daily polls!