Letter to a Legislator
Letters and e-mails can be particularly effective in influencing policymakers’ views. Writing to policymakers or your legislators also offers an opportunity to maintain contact and keep your issues on the front burner even when you cannot meet personally.
This assignment requires you to identify one important policy problem in your own communities and suggest one solution to your legislators. You will be asked to write a short letter to describe the issue to a legislator..
You can start working on the following:
1. Getting the Name and Address for Your Legislator
· You can find the names and addresses of all the elected officials who represent you by going to this website: American Alliance of Museums. (Links to an external site.)
· Under “Find your Elected Officials”, just enter your street address and zip code in the boxes and click the button that says “GO.” It will show you all the elected officials’ information (federal, state, and local) for your address.
2. Getting to Know Your Legislators
· Taking the time to learn about your legislators is an invaluable asset to your advocacy efforts at any level of government. Legislators’ personal history informs their public policy decisions and provides information that you can use to make connections with them. Biography and background information about your legislators is available from a variety of sources.
· Just Google their names. You will get plenty of information. You may also want to check their social media pages. Most legislators are on social media (Facebook, Twitter) and regularly distribute information to their constituents.
3. Do research on your own community
· Communities have problems, just like people. There’s a long list of nominees. Can you name the leading problems in your own community? Chances are you can at least start with the following list: access to clean drinking water, child abuse and neglect, crime, domestic violence, drug use, environmental contamination, ethnic conflict, health disparities, HIV/ AIDS, hunger, inadequate emergency services, inequality, jobs, lack of affordable housing, poverty, racism, transportation, violence.
4. Pick one legislator based on the issue you are going to raise.
· Pick one legislator based on the issue you are going to raise. She/he should be the one who is most familiar with the issue and should take action. Do further research on his/her background.
You can write a letter based on the tools you have learned from Module 3. Whether you are writing a letter or an email, you should keep your message short and to the point. Limit your letter to two pages. The following contents are required:
1. The first paragraph of your message should clearly state the issue or concern about which you are writing. A clear policy problem statement is required.
2. The second and third paragraphs should explain why this issue is important and necessary to you and to your community. You should provide compelling and accurate evidence that convinces the legislator to accept the main issue. Should provide some specific examples of how the issue affects you or other people in their districts. As you explain why this issue is important to you and the community, be sure to use simple words and avoid abbreviations and acronyms that may make it difficult for the legislator to understand your message.
3. The fourth paragraph should explain what you want your legislator to do about the issue: the policy alternative. You need to explain why doing so is effective and feasible to address the issue.
4. Close your message by thanking the legislator for their service and asking for a response.
5. Sign your name.
6. Include your address and phone number below your signature.
Format Your Message
Include your name and address in the top left corner of the envelope. Make sure to spell your legislator’s name correctly and use the correct address.
Address letters to representatives like this: The Honorable John Smith Florida House of Representatives The Capitol Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Address letters to senators like this: Senator Jane Doe The Capitol Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
USING A PROPER GREETING
Whether you are writing a letter or an email, your message should begin with a proper greeting. If you are writing to a representative, begin with “Dear
Representative” and then their last name followed by a colon. For example: Dear Representative Smith:
If you are writing to a senator, begin with “Dear Senator” and then their last name followed by a colon. For example: Dear Senator Doe:
You can check this sample to formate your letter.
Note: This sample is only a good example of letter formatting, NOT a good example for its substantive content per se.
· You want your message to be polite and look professional.
· Avoid using words in all capital letters as this is like yelling at someone.
· Avoid colored paper or backgrounds, fancy fonts, and colored inks; instead, use plain paper (or white backgrounds in emails) and basic fonts written in black ink.
· Letters should be neatly written or typed. If people can’t read your writing, then your message won’t be read or understood.
· Keep a copy of your email or letter so you can refer to it later when you follow-up with your legislator.