We are getting closer to Election Day 2020 and that means we will have newly elected lawmakers that will make up the 117th Congress in 2021. With a new Congress comes many bills that will be re-introduced and many new bills introduced for the first time.
This gives constituents the opportunity to both introduce themselves to a new member or voice their opinion to an existing lawmaker.
Either way, writing a letter to Congress is an excellent way to make your voice heard and participate in the democratic process. Many Members of Congress keep track of what their constituents are writing in and care about. Remember, they are your elected representative in Washington, D.C. And, while you might write on an issue that many of their constituents care about, your issue might be unique or have a perspective that the lawmaker or their staff have not heard.
A carefully crafted, concise letter is a powerful tool in the hands of the constituent. Follow these steps to write your letter to Congress.
Here are several questions to ask yourself before you sit down and craft your letter.
Is your lawmaker undecided or aware of the issue you’re writing about?
Is there a vote on the horizon that deals with your issue?
Is there a bill you would like your lawmaker to review, consider or co-sponsor?
Follow these easy steps to write your letter:
- Addressing and Salutation.
Addressing your letter in an appropriate manner is essential when writing to lawmakers. Equally important is how you refer to them in the salutation of your letter.
When addressing your letter, please use the following format
For Your Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room Number) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator (last name):
For Your House Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room Number) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Representative (last name)
2. Introduce yourself.
Start off with a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you live, where you work (if appropriate) and how long you have been in the State or District.
3. Why are you writing?
If you are writing about a specific issue or bill, this is when you would state the purpose of your letter. For example, “I am writing to you today to voice my support of XXXX.”
4. Support your position.
Here you can use a paragraph to go a little further into why you have made the stance you have. If you have a particular personal story to tell add it here, but keep it concise. If you have current statistics that you think the lawmaker needs to hear, add them here. And, if there are others in your State or District that would benefit from your stated purpose make that known as well.
5. Make your ask.
After you have provided background on your position or information about a new policy, use the next paragraph to ask your lawmaker to take an action. Do you want them to introduce a bill, co-sponsor a bill or defeat a bill in their Chamber? This is the time to make your ask. For example, “supporting research in pediatric cancer is important to me, which is why I am asking you to co-sponsor XXXX.”
6. Close the letter.
Now that you have introduced yourself, stated your purpose in writing and made your ask you will need to close the letter. Here you can decide whether you want to be formal or a little more personal. For example, for a more simple and formal closing you can use. “Thank you for taking the time to listen to my point of view. Sincerely, Your Name.” For a more personal closing feel free to use something like, “Thank you for taking the time to listen to my point of view, Best regards, Your Name.”
Now that you have written your letter give it a quick review. Make sure you have made all of the necessary points and have corrected any spelling or grammar.
Remember, your vote counts and lawmakers and their staff are in their position to serve you and truly want to hear from their constituents on issues that are important to them. Also, lawmakers and their staff are quite busy so it might take some time for you to receive a response, but rest assured you will in time.
Congratulations on writing your letter to Congress!
Tom Donnelly is a 30 year veteran of public affairs, grassroots and advocacy and writes about the advocacy process and how anyone can participate. You can learn more about Tom at anchor-strategies.com.