Contacting U.S. elected officials to ask questions and share your opinions is an important element of democracy, but it can often feel like your voice isn’t heard or valued. Representatives are hard to get a hold of during their busy schedules, and a form-letter response you may receive after sending a letter or phone call to their office can make it seem like you aren’t getting your point across. Here’s a list of tips you can use to help make your voice heard by your elected officials.
Visit their Office
It can be hard for your representatives or members of their staff to read and respond to every letter or telephone; after all, since the size of the average congressional district is more than 710,000 people, your letter or call will be one of thousands—perhaps millions—in a year. But while a call or letter can be overlooked, it’s impossible for your representative or their staff to ignore an actual human being in their office. Learn the location of your representatives’ offices and make a point to visit regularly so that you can ensure your voice gets heard and isn’t lost in the shuffle of a busy office.
Join a Group
If there’s an issue that you’re passionate about, do some research and see what groups in your area are working to bend the ear of your representative on that topic. These groups have more of a chance to make contact with representatives or catch their attention since they can leverage the work—and potential votes—of large numbers of people towards a common cause; this makes it easier to broadcast a message since it’s carried by many voices. Your group can visit your representative’s office, attend their town halls, or even invite them to one of your own meetings. Or, if you can’t find a group that’s right for you, go ahead and start one yourself!
Write Letters to the Editor
If you’ve made several attempts to contact your representative but haven’t made any progress, you can consider writing a letter to the editor in a newspaper explaining your view and asking your representative to respond. While you can shoot for a national newspaper like the Wall Street Journal, you have a greater probability of being published in the local paper—plus, since your representative will be concerned with the press coverage they receive within their own district, they’ll also be more inclined to respond to you, either directly or in a follow-up letter of their own.