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Contacting Elected Officials by Phone
Phone calls are a relatively quick and easy way to express your opinion regarding an impending bill. To help make your phone call most effective, bear in mind the following tips:
While you may certainly ask to speak directly with your elected official, be aware that phone calls are typically taken by staff members, not the officials themselves. You can ask to speak to the aide who is responsible for child and family policies. Remember to treat these aides with respect, as they advise the elected official on policies that concern you and your children.
Once on the phone, be sure to identify yourself. Give your name, address, town, and organization if applicable. This is important information, as input from the official’s district is weighed more heavily in decision making.
Briefly state your reason for calling. This can be as simple as, “I would like to let Senator/Representative/Delegate (Name) know that I support/oppose bill (Name or Number) because…” Continue by briefly outlining the reasoning behind your support or opposition.
Request information regarding your official’s position on the bill, as well as a written follow-up to your phone call.
Thank the official or staff member for his/her time.
Note: When state legislators are in legislative session, phone calls to their Annapolis offices are free of long-distance charges.
Contacting Elected Officials by Mail
Letters are one of the most popular forms of communication with elected officials. To help make your letter most effective, bear in mind the following tips:
If you are writing to more than one official, be sure to address each letter separately–do not simply send photocopies.
Be sure to include your name, address, phone number, and position if applicable.
When addressing senators and representatives it is proper to begin with: The Honorable (Name)
When addressing the Chair of a Committee, the Speaker of the House, or the President of the Senate, it is proper to begin with:
Dear Mr. Chairman or Madam Chairwoman
Dear Mr./Ms. Speaker
Dear Mr./Ms. President
Writing the Letter
Be concise. Try to keep your letter to a maximum of one page in length.
Clearly identify the purpose of your letter, mentioning the bill name or number if applicable, in the beginning of your letter.
Identify yourself (as a parent, child care provider, etc.) and give supporting evidence to back up your position. This can come from both personal and professional experience, and can indicate how the proposed legislation will impact you and those you care about.
Ask the official to respond in writing regarding his/her position or final vote on the issue.
Thank the official for his/her time and consideration.
Contacting Elected Officials by Email
Email letters can follow the same format as written letters, and may be a quicker and more efficient method of communication.
Direct links to official’s email addresses can be found on the Maryland Archives “Who Are Your Elected Officials” website.
Requesting Personal Meetings with Elected Officials
Personal meetings can be an effective way to express your views and concerns about a specific bill or issue by having a conversation with your elected official. It is important to remember, however, that legislators have busy schedules and may not be able to give you all the time you feel is necessary. To increase your chances of meeting with an official, try to contact them when the legislature is not in session (late April through December). If you would like to spend more time talking about an issue, consider following up with a legislative assistant; these aides are well informed and communicate frequently with the elected officials, and can be a valuable resource. To help make your meeting with a legislator or aide most effective, bear in mind these tips:
Requesting a Meeting
Call or write to your official’s office and inform them of the issue you would like to discuss. If you are writing, you may also want to suggest specific dates and times for the proposed meeting.
Preparing for the Meeting
Know your audience. Are you speaking with a legislator who has a strong history of supporting child care initiatives, or someone who has been more conservative on your issue? You may want to adjust the tone and content of your remarks accordingly.
Decide what you want to accomplish during the meeting. Do you want to explain your point of view, or are you looking for a commitment to support a specific bill?
Decide who will attend the meeting. Are there other concerned parents or professionals who will help you make a stronger case? Groups of three or four people may be most effective, but be sure to decide on roles and positions beforehand, so that you present a unified front to the legislator.
If you feel it would be helpful, create a fact sheet or position statement regarding your issue. This can be simply a one page bulleted list of information, potential outcomes, or positions regarding the bill, and may be helpful for you during the meeting. Also, you can leave a copy with the legislator after your meeting.
During the Meeting
Begin by introducing yourself and thanking the official for his/her time.
Be clear and succinct when presenting your issue, as you will have limited time during your meeting.
Explain how the proposed bill or issue will directly impact you, your coworkers, or people that you love, and explain what action you would like your legislator to take regarding the issue.
If you are asked a question and are unsure about the answer, do not make something up. Instead, offer to find more information and forward it to the legislator.
If you have created a fact sheet or position statement, feel free to leave a copy with the official. This may be a helpful point of reference when he/she is thinking about your issue in the future.
After the Meeting
Send a thank-you note to the official.
Include information or resources about any topics that you have followed up on or that help to reinforce your position.