From time to time it’s critical to let elected representatives and other officials know your views about a particular issue. Elected leaders pay close attention to constituent contact. For that reason, it is critical that you only contact elected officials who represent you. Contacting anyone who doesn’t represent you can be a waste of time, at best, when those communications are ignored. At worst, the elected official may use non-constituent communications as an excuse to disregard your issue, claiming that your message doesn’t truly reflect the views of his or her constituents. Identify your elected officials here.
If what you’re writing about is time sensitive, choose email or a phone call, as heightened security can lead to long mail delays. Many offices can also receive faxes. Social media messages are often disregarded for the same reason as above: the elected official may not be able to determine if the message is coming from a constituent.
Here are some ways you can make your requests more effective:
To a U.S. Senator:
The Honorable (Senator’s Full Name)
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
To a U.S. Representative:
The Honorable (Represenative’s Full Name)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
To a State Senator:
The Honorable (Senator’s Full Name)
P.O. Box 12068
Austin, Texas 78711
To a State Representative:
The Honorable (Representative’s Full Name)
Texas House of Representatives
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, Texas 78768-2910
The suggested greeting to use is “Dear Congressman/woman [Last name],” (“Dear Representative” for state legislators) or “Dear Senator.” If you are writing to a chairperson of a particular committee, address him/her as “Chairman” or “Madam Chair.”
To start, give your name, your occupation (optional, but it might give your request weight if your job also gives you a particular insight or expertise), and your affiliation with any relevant organizations, such as being a member of BikeTexas. After introducing yourself, be sure to include, “I am a resident of District ___” (or “Texas,” if you are writing to a US Senator).
Legislative staffers process hundreds or even thousands of constituent communications in the average week. The longer your message is, the more likely they are to start skimming (or stop paying attention, if it’s a phone call) and miss a critical point. Make your points as brief as you can while still getting your message across. It takes a lot more space to talk about this kind of communication than to do it, so what you’re reading here would be much, much too long for a message to an elected official. (We enjoy the irony.)
Identify the Issue
Next, identify your issue. Include a bill name and number, if relevant. BikeTexas can provide you with information on specific bills and issues that affect Texas cyclists.
Support Your Case
Elected officials tend to give less credence to form letters arriving by the dozens. While using prewritten text from an organization may save you time, it may also mean your message will be lost. Therefore, BikeTexas always encourages you to take a sentence or two to explain why this issue matters to you, personally. Would you like your commute to be safer? Do you want your kids to be able to walk to school alone as they get older? Are you concerned about your parents losing their mobility? Let your representative know why this bill or issue deserves their attention.
Keep Your Cool
A polite, friendly critique will always be more effective than an attack. However tempting it may be to rake your representative over the coals when they disagree with issues that matter to you, losing your temper may not get you the results you’re after.
Make Your Ask
Tell the official exactly what you want them to do, e.g. “Please support bill X” or “Please vote no on bill Y.” Then be sure to say thank you.
Keep BikeTexas in the Loop
We’d love to hear how your outreach goes! You can cc or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re talking with an elected official about biking and walking issues, or to let us know if you get a response. If your senator or representative seems unenthusiastic or uninterested in biking and walking issues, we may be able to help, or to encourage others in your district to also reach out.