Which political issues are on your mind? Gun control? Immigration reform? Gay marriage? The sustainability of Social Security? Have you communicated your opinions on these topics to your elected officials?
I’ve never been short on opinions, yet I’ve rarely taken the time to express them to the decision makers who represent me. This changed recently. Under my husband’s initiative, we wrote letters to our elected officials in the Senate and House of Representatives expressing our thoughts on some key topics.
Why communicate with elected officials?
Representing you in government is the job of your officials. If you communicate your opinions to them, they can do this more easily. Additionally, politicians need to know that their constituents are paying attention and that opportunities for reelection will depend on the decisions they make now.
I’ve often used being busy as an excuse for not writing my officials. However, I think my true concern was that it wouldn’t make a difference. Why take time to communicate my opinions if it will not influence their decision making?
I recently had a revelation: I’m only responsible for expressing my opinions, not for whether my elected officials act according to them. If I’m passionate about an issue or think a particular course of legislative action is best for the American people, then it is my right—and I believe my responsibility—as an American to express this to my officials. Moreover, if I do so, then my officials cannot feign being unaware of their constituents’ opinions. I also feel that if I’m communicating my opinions and praying for my officials, then I have a clear conscience when they make poor decisions because I did what I could to influence their choices.
How to contact officials
Members of Congress can be contacted a number of ways, including mail, email, and phone. You can also visit their local offices in person or request a meeting with an official or one of his or her staff members. On occasion, officials will hold local town hall meetings or forums, which can provide opportunities for face-to-face communication. It is typical for each official’s staff members to assist in communicating with constituents, so your communications may be answered by one of them.
There is debate regarding the most impactful way to contact officials. Regardless of the medium, the communication should be succinct and well written (or articulated). These characteristics lend credence to your opinions and help officials take you seriously. Contact information for elected officials at the national and state levels can be found at the Contact Elected Officials page on USA.gov. An informative video on communicating with Congress is below (courtesy of congress.org).
I was specifically thinking about federal officials when writing this post, but it is also relevant at the state and local levels. What factors have motivated you or discouraged you from contacting your elected officials?