How to Contact Your Legislators FAQ

Congressman McGovern at BMB

Legislators need to hear from their constituents to know what issues are important to them. Before you reach out to your Senator or Representative on key environmental bills, make sure your voice is heard loud and clear by brushing up on the most effective practices for contacting your legislators.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Does it really make a difference if I contact my legislator?

Absolutely! We have observed numerous occasions where contacts to a legislator resulted in a change of vote or inspired him/her to take action. Even a small number of letters (5-6) indicates that there is a great deal of interest in a particular bill or issue. State legislators need to hear from their constituents in order to best determine how to manage finite public resources.

I don’t know who my state representative and state senator are. How do I find out?

It’s easy to search for your state legislators based on your town or zip code. Once you search and the names are displayed, click on a legislator’s name to visit their page that includes mailing address, phone and fax numbers, and email.

Which is better: calls, letters, or emails?

It depends on how much time and concern you have to reach your legislator. A handwritten or typed letter is great as it denotes sincere interest in an issue. If the particular bill you are interested in is up for a vote within 2-3 days, a phone call can be most effective. Email is also accepted, but slightly less personal.  Non-personalized standard form letters or emails (prepared by interest groups or advocacy organizations for your signature) have less impact in influencing public officials' decisions.

What should I say when I call or write?

It is best to be brief and include the following:
State your position on the issue.
Identify your name and address.
Include the bill number if you know it; if you don’t know the bill number, be clear in explaining the nature of the issue.
Explain why this is important to you personally and why s/he should support your view.
Address how a piece of legislation would affect your community.
Be sure to ask your legislator a question so you will get a response. For example: Will you vote for this bill? Will you be a sponsor of this legislation? Will you ask the Senate President or House Speaker to bring this bill up for a vote?

Should I expect a response to my call or letter?

Yes. If you do not get a response or an answer to your questions you should call or write again. Be polite but explain that you would like your call or letter answered. A handwritten or typed letter will almost always generate a response letter from the legislator.

Do you use online petitions?

While online petitions can at times be an effective means of gathering support for some issues, Mass Audubon’s experience is that emailing and calling legislators and the Governor’s office is a more personal, timely, and direct method of requesting action.

What if my legislator disagrees with my position on an issue?

Be respectful and firm but never angry. Be brief. Ask the basis of his/her opposition. Provide evidence related to the points your legislator raises. If you find information refuting his/her points, follow up your conversation with a letter that includes the information.

How do I go about setting up a meeting with my representative or senator?

Call his/her office and request a meeting. It is better if you have an issue to discuss and have a small group of concerned citizens attend a meeting. This shows the community interest and that you are not the only interested constituent.