Getting Your Voice Heard
One of your greatest responsibilities is to
help elect the legislators who represent you.
But your role in the democratic process of
government does not end at the polls. By
sharing your opinions and ideas with your
representatives and senators, you help them
decide what to do about the issues and pending
legislation that affect us all. They value your
suggestions and encourage you to express them.
Your legislators receive a huge amount of phone
calls and mail from their constituents.
Unfortunately, their full agendas limit their
ability to personally read and respond to it
all. How then, can you be sure your voice is
heard? Here are some tips to help you get the
most impact out of your communications with
Know who your legislators are and how to contact them. If you don't
know who represents you, you can find out by using the clinking
here to link to the Virginia Legislature Citizen's Guide "Who's My
Make sure you understand the legislative
process. Even the most basic understanding
of the process will help you effectively
express your ideas.
Contact your legislator about a particular
issue before the Legislature takes action
on it. Most matters coming before the
Legislature are well publicized before
Use a variety of communication methods.
You might choose to telephone, write,
e-mail, fax, or visit your legislator. You
might also choose to give testimony at
public hearings held by the Legislature.
(To give testimony, you would need to
contact the appropriate committee
secretary before the hearing to sign up.)
Tell your legislator what effect you think
a particular bill, if it becomes law, will
have on you, your children, business, or
community. Be concise, but specific.
Be polite, even if you disagree strongly
with the legislator you are addressing.
Lawmakers cannot please everyone. Your
communication will be more effective if
you are reasonable in your approach.
Suggest a course of action and offer
assistance. Don't make promises or
When writing your legislator:
Address letters to Members of the House of
Delegates as "The Honorable John Doe",
Address letters to senators as "Senator
Be absolutely certain you spell your
legislator's name correctly and use the
correct address. If you don't, you could
lose your audience.
Type or print legibly. Sign your name
neatly and give your address correctly so
they can respond to your letter.
Keep letters, e-mail, and faxes brief.
Never write more than one page. Written
correspondence that is short and
to-the-point is more likely to grab and
keep the reader's attention.
Identify your issue or opinion at the
beginning of the letter; don't bury your
main point under trivial text.
Cover only one issue per letter. If you
have another issue to address, write
Back up your opinions with supporting
facts. Your letter should inform the
Avoid abbreviations or acronyms, and don't
use technical jargon. Rather than
impressing your reader, such terms will
only frustrate him or her.
Don't send the same letter to more than
one legislator. Personalized letters have
When telephoning or visiting your legislator:
Plan your call or visit carefully. Keep to
the point and discuss only one issue.
Organize your thoughts ahead of time and
make notes to help you stay on track.
When planning to visit your legislator,
make an appointment. Don't just drop by
your legislator's office and expect him or
her to drop everything to see you. Call or
write for an appointment as soon as you
know when you are going to be at the
Prepare a one-page fact sheet concerning
your issue to give to your legislator.
This will help him or her better retain
what you present.
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