Write Your Legislator
During the legislative session, HFI will send out Action Alerts requesting you contact your representative on proposed legislation. This will often involve a quick phone call or simple email. This shouldn’t be the only time you are in contact with your legislator. Taking time to develop a relationship with your elected official off season will allow you the opportunity develop an open line of communication based on mutual respect.
How to Write Your Legislator
Elected officials care what their mail says. A logical, courteous letter carries weight; it can change a legislator’s mind, particularly when the legislator is wavering on an issue. It is important that your message be written as effectively as possible.
Here are a few points:
- Keep it brief. Be as brief as possible, but don’t sacrifice clarity and completeness. Two pages is a maximum but one page is best. While form letters tend to be easy to use it better to use your own words. HFI will always present you with key ideas and a sample letter to help you create a personalized letter.
- Identify yourself. Let your legislators know that you live and/or work in their district.
- Keep it focused. Limit the correspondence to one subject. Otherwise, you decrease the force of your argument and complicate your legislator’s efforts to act.
- Get to the point. State your purpose at the outset and use the remainder of the letter to expand your views. Create a simple bullet pointed list within the first paragraph of the reasons you are for/against proposed legislation. Be constructive suggesting alternatives or better solutions, if possible. Use a simple bulleted pointed list to make it easy for the legislator to identify your points. A few strong, well thought out points will be more influential than a long laundry list of reasons.
- Use facts. Issues you write about may be emotion-laden, but beware of the nonfactual argument. It will make your legislator less willing to consider your point next time, too.
- Relate it to home. Emphasize the effect of the legislation in question on your legislator’s own constituency districts. Give facts and illustrations – use your own knowledge and experience to inform the legislator. Legislators seldom change their decisions because of a philosophical argument but well-reasoned examples carry tremendous weight.
- Provide background as needed. Don’t assume that a legislator is as well informed as you about a problem. A legislator can’t keep abreast of everything. Explain the situation, what you think and why.
- Make specific recommendations.
- Keep it positive. Your attitude is important. A polite, positive-sounding letter is more likely to impress than one that is negative, rude, or threatening. Avoid being antagonistic. Point out the benefits of your position.
- Close with a friendly appeal, regardless of the action you urge. Thank them for their help and consideration. “Sincerely,” is an appropriate closing.
- Allow for follow-up. Include contact information and offer to act as a resource should the legislator (or staff) have questions or need additional information. Include your full name, address, your district (find your district here – https://legislature.idaho.gov/who’smylegislator.htm), Where appropriate, indicate in the letter that you will follow up with a phone call