After face-to-face meetings, writing letters is the next best way to communicate with legislators. This form of communication allows you to carefully craft your words without the pressure of an in-person meeting. It also allows legislators to read and consider your arguments without the distractions of the State House, and shows them that you are passionate enough about an issue to sit down and express your thoughts. Written letters also you to submit additional materials that support your point of view. Hand-written letters are the most effective. Here are some tips to writing effective letters to your elected officials.
Identify yourself: Immediately state that you are a concerned constituent and let your legislator know whether you are writing in a personal or professional capacity, and whether you are speaking for others. Be sure to include your name, address, phone number and e-mail address. Many legislators respond to your legislators, so your contact information is important.
Be specific: You should state the reason you are writing in the first paragraph. If your letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation, be sure to identify it accordingly (for example, LD __, HP __, or SP __).
Be focused: Address only one issue per letter and, if possible, keep the letter to one page. Include pertinent information, using facts and examples to support your position. Do not make arguments that cannot be substantiated; doing so will undermine your credibility.
Be personal: Explain how the legislation you’re writing about affects you, your family, your friends, your business or community. Again, sending hand-written or typed letters is generally more effective than sending an email.
Be clear: Let the legislator know what action you’d like them to take. If you want them to support a specific bill, say so. If you want them to vote against a certain bill, make that clear. If you’d like your legislator to follow-up with you, let them know.
*This information has been adapted with permission from A Citizen’s Guide to the 125th Maine Legislature, a publication by the Maine People’s Resource Center.