How to Contact Your Legislators
Click here to visit the Pennsylvania Legislative Action Center on Congress.org and use your zip code to search for contact info of your state and local legislators. You can also look up your state legislators online on the General Assembly web site located here.
You can send a form letter or an email, but there is an old adage in the lobbying game: form letters are weighed, not read; e-mails and calls get counted.
If you only have time to send a form letter or email or call your legislator, then by all means do so. Some contact is always better than no contact. If you do have the time, writing a personal letter is more effective than emailing or calling. Personal letters are effective because the legislator knows they take time to produce — and that tells them the issue must be important to you. Personal letters stand out because the bulk of issue-related mail to legislative office comes in the form of post cards or form letters.
Writing a Good Letter
You don’t have to be Shakespeare or Hemingway to write an effective letter to your legislator. Your opinions expressed in your own words are the most effective. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Be brief. Mail to legislators is filtered through their staffs. Long letters almost never get by the staff. One to two pages is a good length.
2. Describe the Issue. Explain what it is that concerns you about an issue or piece of legislation. If you have had personal experiences that formed your opinion on an issue, include them.
3. Explain the Impact of the Issue. Talk about how an issue has specifically affected you, your family, or community. If you are writing about a specific piece of legislation, explain how you think it would affect you, your family, or community.
4. If you need specific information or data, consult the issues and politics pages of this web site, or contact our legislative department.
5. Include a Request for Action. This is very important. Tell your legislator exactly what you want them to do in response to your letter. If you are writing about a piece of legislation, tell your your legislator how you want them to vote.
There are a number of other actions you can ask your legislator to take. If you you are not writing about a specific piece of legislation might ask your legislator to:
1. Write you a letter explain their position on an issue (these are handy at election time);
2. Answer a specific question about an issue
( “How many of the 170,000 manufacturing jobs that left PA in the last several years went to China?”) ;
3. Hold hearings on an issue in your community;
4. Write and introduce a bill.
Use these ideas and you will be writing very effective letters to your legislators. These tips apply equally well to any e-mail letters you might write.
One other thing: keep any responses you get from your legislator. Your legislators’ responses form part of their public record on an issue and can help document changes or contradictions in their views.