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January 24, 2011

Student Guide to Lobbying: Part 2

How to contact your lawmakers

Go back to Part 1: What is lobbying? 

Student Advisory Board membr Theresa Edwards at the Washington state capitol

Theresa Edwards

Now that you’ve read the tips and tricks, what’s the best way to actually get in touch with your lawmakers? You have a few options. Read about each one here: 

Dial Them Up. Old-fashioned phone calls are the best way to reach your federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill. If you call during the day, there will be a staff person in the office to take your call. Phone calls also work well when quick action is needed. (You can always follow up with an e-mail.)   

To contact legislators by phone, you can use the congressional switchboard number, (202) 224-3121. All you need to say is: “I’m a constituent and I am calling to ask my representative/senator to support/not support [bill number and title].” The switchboard operator will connect you to your legislator. (This is not a free call. Be sure you have permission to make a long-distance call first!) 

You can also look up your lawmakers’ contact info and direct office number at humanesociety.org/leglookup.

Most state legislatures are not in session year round and some are not in session every year. Most legislators have offices in their state capitals. Call the state capitals first, even if the legislature is out of session. Usually a recording will give you contact information.

Writing Letters to Your Legislators. Sending personal letters is a great way to let your legislators know how you feel. Personalized letters are more effective than submitting a preprinted letter or postcard. To find your legislators, visit humanesociety.org/leglookup. Type in your ZIP code to see who represents you on both state and federal levels. Click on “Send Message” to write to your legislators. 

In the letter, focus on one point and explain how it affects you, your family, and your community. You should also have someone proofread your letter before you send it. Then encourage club members, friends, and family to follow your example. The more letters a legislator receives on an issue, the greater the impact!

 Sending Your Letter. Here are some things to keep in mind when sending a letter to a legislator:

- Always address your letters with the legislator’s title and last name.

- Faxing or e-mailing a letter is better than mailing it, especially if the issue is urgent. All congressional offices have fax lines, so contact his or her office for the fax number. E-mail is a little more effective on the state level than the federal, due to the volume of e-mails federal legislators receive. 

- Include the subject, bill number, and whether you support or oppose the bill in the subject line. For example: “Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement-H.R. 137—Support.” Postal mail can take some time to make its way to the legislator. So it’s best to use phone calls or fax for time-sensitive issues.

Go to Part 3: How a bill becomes a law >> 

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