When to Advocate
- Once a bill is introduced, you have an opportunity to urge your senators and representative to cosponsor it.
- You can thank them for their support once they sign on.
- It is useful to recommend improvements in the bill’s provisions as it is considered at the subcommittee or committee levels. This is particularly true if your member of Congress is on the committee that has jurisdiction over the bill.
- There are other chances to recommend changes or urge a bill’s passage when votes occur on the House and Senate floors (follow the bill’s progress at www.govtrack.us.
- Advocate anytime you are concerned about an issue. Your letters, calls and visits are particularly important when an issue is timely, for example, when a vote is expected or when there has been a lot of news coverage.
Find Your Legislator
U.S. Representative : www.house.gov
U. S. Senator: www.senate.gov
Oklahoma State Legislators: http://www.capitolconnect.com/oklahoma/
Sending a Letter to Your Legislator
Most people believe that writing a letter to a legislator is like putting a drop in the bucket. “I’m only one person,” they tell themselves, “my letter isn’t going to make a bit of difference.” But it does. You may think your representative is being flooded with hundreds of thousands of letters on the issue you care about. The truth is, the average member of letters legislators typically receive is fewer than 100 letters on any one issue. One letter out of 100 – your letter – can carry a lot of weight. Letter writing works.
You don’t need a secretary, a computer, or fancy stationary to write a good letter. The best letters – the ones legislators pay attention to – are written in your own words.
How to write –
- Be brief. Address only one issue. A letter need not be longer than four or five sentences.
- Be specific. If you are writing about specific legislation, include its bill number or title.
- Write your own letter, adapting a sample letter as appropriate. Form letters do not receive the same attention as individually written letters.
- Be positive and constructive. Try to say something complimentary in the first paragraph. It is just as important to thank members of Congress for voting the right way as to criticize them for voting the wrong way.
- Say in your own words why the legislation matters to you and to children. Clearly state your reason for supporting or opposing the bill or issue you are writing about.
- If you have particular knowledge or expertise, describe it. Relating the bill to local or state conditions is especially effective.
- If you wish, feel free to include a copy of a report, a newspaper story or a local survey to support your arguments. Don’t presume that the legislator is aware of such information, even if you think it is common knowledge.
Visiting Your Legislator
Schedule your appointment and confirm it a day or two before.
Be prepared. Have up-to-date information and know your facts.
Decide who will make the visit and what each person will say. Practice the visit.
Be timely. Contact your legislator before key votes and respond quickly to action alerts.
Keep the meeting short. Express your opinion and use personal examples. Be polite.
Bring written information to leave with your legislator.
Ask what your legislator’s position is.
Write a follow-up thank you with a summary of the visit.
Calling Your Legislator
When you call to express your position on a bill:
- Identify yourself and state that you are a constituent.
- Express your position in a one sentence message that includes the bill number and/or title
When you call to have a conversation on the bill/issue:
- Ask to speak to your legislator or the staff member who works on the issue.
- Identify yourself as a constituent and state your affiliations.
- State your position and how you want your legislator to vote.
- Mention examples from your personal experience.
- Ask what your Congressperson’s position is on the issue.
- Thank the person for considering your view and offer to provide additional information if needed.