Communicating with Elected Officials
In a representative democracy, we elect people in our community to make decisions and create policy on our behalf. This system works most effectively when elected leaders and their constituents maintain a healthy level of communication. You may feel as though you are one small voice in our big state, but if you don't speak up, who is going to do it for you?
As a citizen who is concerned about public schools, you may need to contact elected officials who are involved in creating education policy. This page provides tips on communicating with elected officials as well as links to important contact information.
Tips for Communicating with Legislators
The easiest way to contact your legislator is through email. Busy lawmakers are not always available to answer the phone, and regular mail often arrives too late to be effective. However you plan to reach your legislator, the following tips can help you be most effective.
- Be polite and respectful.
- Keep your message short and to the point.
- Include your name and contact information.
- Include your own personal experiences whenever possible.
- When contacting your senator or representative, be sure to state that you live in his or her district. (Legislators give priority to communication from their own constituents.)
- For action on a particular bill, contact members of the committee that is considering the bill.
- Include the number and title of the bill in the subject line of your email.
- Whenever possible, send emails to one person at a time. (Legislators tend to devote less attention to mass emails delivered to the entire body.)
- Address only one issue per message.
- Be specific about the action you are requesting. Example: "Vote in favor of House Bill X."
- PROOFREAD your email message, and have someone else look over the message before you send it.
Tips for offering comments in public meetings
Whether it's before a legislative committee or a school board, you may have an opportunity to make comments at a public meeting. The following tips will help you to be most effective.
- Prepare ahead of time.
- Write your comments at home.
- Know how long you will be allowed to speak (usually a maximum of three minutes). Know how you can edit your comment if it needs to be shortened.
- Have a friend read over or listen to your comments. Accept constructive criticism.
- Study the meeting agendas. Make sure you attend the meeting when your issue is being discussed and that you know when public comment will be allowed.
- State your name and where you are from.
- Identify the group you represent if you are speaking on behalf of others.
- Be polite and respectful.
- Share personal experiences whenever possible.
- Do not repeat what other people have said. Try to offer a new perspective.
- Keep your comments within the allotted time.
- Stay focused on the issue at hand.
- Be clear about your recommendation-support the bill, oppose the bill, amend the bill in the following way...
More information here.