Contacting your elected representatives. As more and more threads are questioning the actions of their local representatives, I thought I might sit down and compose a guide to the effectiveness of methods of contact. In-Person Contact: Obviously if you can get face time with your local representative, or key member of their staff, that is the most effective method. A meeting usually needs to be arranged in advance. If you can arrange this, prepare yourself. Have key points you want to speak about and have some support available for your position. The key is to be brief, but take the time you need to present your position. Letter: A handwritten, or typed and signed letter, is the most effective means of communication (other than a face to face meeting). It is far more effective than photocopied form letters, postcard campaigns or emails. The traditional method is the handwritten letter. It shows that you are the writer (as opposed to maybe a “clip & paste”) but typewritten letters are also acceptable. Just be sure to sign your name in ink. Polling of politicians concerning the methods used to contact them has determined that at the federal level most view one written letter as representative of 1,000 constituents opinions. That means that your single letter is potentially going to carry a lot of weight! Telephone call: A phone call to your representative's office is generally more effective than sending an email, but is less effective than writing and mailing a letter. Just make sure that if you do not get through to your representative directly, that you request that your position, and specific request for action, is forwarded to them. Fax: The effectiveness of fax communication is higher than email, but less than a mailed letter and roughly equivalent to a phone call. Email: Email is by far the least effective way of communicating your views to your representative. Some regard email as "second class mail" and some do not even read it. Others may receive so much that they and their staff have difficulty managing it. However, when you are unable to find time to mail a letter or make a phone call, it is better to send an email than do nothing. Remember one hand written letter is viewed as 1,000 !!!! Tips for Writing Letters Include your name and address: Identify yourself as a constituent by including your address when you write to your elected representatives. Generally, politicians are likely to pay most attention to people who live in their electoral district. Keep it brief: Letters should be no longer than one page and should be about one issue only. Be as concise as possible. Politicians receive many letters on many topics every day. Long letters are likely to be put aside to read on a less busy day and that day may never come. Use your own words, not someone else's: An original letter sent by one single person is more effective than a form letter (or cut and past texts) sent by dozens of people. Even if your writing skills are not the best, a letter written in your own words will carry much more weight. State the topic clearly: Include a subject line at the beginning of your letter. If it is about a specific piece of legislation or a proposed law, state the full name in the subject line, or at least in the first paragraph. Start with a clear statement of purpose: For example: "I am writing to urge your support for / opposition to..." Focus on the important points: Choose the 2-3 points that are most likely to be persuasive in gaining support for your position and flesh them out. This is more effective than attempting to address numerous points in a letter. Ask your representative to take specific action: For example, ask them to raise the matter in their party room and seek to have their party oppose the Bill. Point out that the issues are important enough to warrant amendments to the Bill, and/or for the representative to cross party lines if warranted. Ask for a response to your letter: While the response will usually be a form letter, written and authorized by their political party, you will know you have had an impact on their office. Personalize your letter: When possible, include a personal story and/or information on how the issue affects you, your family, your business, or people around you. This can help your representative understand your position and can be very persuasive as he/she forms a position on an issue. The more personal your letter, the more impact it is likely to have. Personalize your relationship: If you have ever voted for the representative, or contributed time or money to their election campaign, or have met them, etc, say so. The closer your representative feels to you, the more effective your letter is likely to be. The key is to show you are INVOLVED. Be polite: Be courteous, but don't be afraid to take a firm position. While your representative's job is to represent you, remember that politicians and their staff are people too. Threats, hostile remarks and rude/offensive language are among the fastest ways to alienate people who could otherwise decide to support your position in light of rational and reasoned argument. Your representative could be in elected office for decades, and could be promoted to higher, more influential, office within their party. Avoid creating enemies. Thanks is as important as criticism: Politicians/political parties need to be able to tell the 'other side' that they have been inundated with calls and letters supporting their position. Write thank you letters to politicians/parties that you know support your position. This will encourage them to stand firm on their position rather than backing down. Tips for Telephone Calls 1. Before phoning about a proposed law, be sure you know the full name of the Bill. 2. Be prepared to express your comments briefly and concisely. 3. When you call, give your name and also identify yourself as a constituent when phoning your representative. 4. Ask to speak to your representative or their relevant adviser about the [name of Bill, or topic]. 5. You will probably be put through to a staff member. Ask that your representative take concrete action, such as supporting or opposing a Bill, or seeking to have their party change its position, etc. 6. It is worth following up after your telephone call with a letter or email. Contacting Newspapers (letters to editors) Politicians and their staff generally monitor the letters pages of newspapers. As well, published letters can raise awareness of an issue among readers who would not otherwise be aware of it. Even if not published, your letter could be instrumental in drawing to the newspaper's attention that the issue is of public concern and should be reported on by their staff. Keep letters short (most papers have a limit of 200 or 300 words) and include your name, address and phone number (newspapers generally will not print letters unless they are able to contact and confirm the sender and you can request that they not print your contact information).