Writing a Letter to Your Legislator
The written letter is more formal and friendly because most of the correspondence these days is over the phone or email, and most lawmakers are interested to receive local information from the district. When writing to your legislator, decide if you will write to them in their district or at their legislative office in Montgomery or Washington, D.C.-you want to ensure the letter properly addresses the lawmaker with the correct title and salutation. A typed or legibly handwritten letter, either faxed or mailed, is acceptable.
Writing an effective letter to your legislator:
- Make your name and address visible so the official and his or her staff know you’re a constituent and include additional contact information.
- State your support for or opposition to the bill by bill number (if possible), usually in the subject line or first paragraph. Personalize with a story from your life, the community life or your professional expertise.
- If appropriate, suggest different solutions to the issues. Remember to stay on topic.
- Repeat your request at the closing of the letter and request the lawmaker inform you of their decision, providing your contact information.
- Proofread for errors ensuring you stay on message and be brief with a two-page maximum.
- Send a copy to the Medical Association lobbyists.
Here are some things you shouldn’t do in your letter:
- Do not procrastinate, time is of the essence
- Do not supply excess articles or studies but instead offer to provide these items upon request
- Do not be condescending, threatening, sarcastic or offer ultimatums
- Do not exaggerate or stretch the truth
Sending an Email to Your Legislator
The tips below will ensure your email contains a well-written, concise argument.
- First sentence or paragraph. “Your standing”-Emails from people who are most affected by the policy or have knowledge of its impact are the most likely to influence legislators.
- Second sentence or paragraph. “Your personal story”-Tell your compelling story using both emotion and fact.
- Third sentence or paragraph. “Your specific ask”-Be as precise as possible with your request. Some examples may be, “Please go to the House floor and speak on behalf of this policy,” or “Please sponsor this bill.”
- Fourth sentence or paragraph. “Local Data”-Legislators rely heavily on accurate information that will impact their constituency on proposed legislation and have little time to research all of the issues before them. Something to try: conduct an informal survey of ten physicians (who are also constituents) on the issue at hand and relay those findings to your legislator.
- Fifth sentence or paragraph. “Your passion”-Your enthusiasm reflects in this paragraph when you say why you are supporting or not supporting the measure before them.
Your legislators email address can be found here. If you have difficulty finding the correct email address, you can contact the Medical Association’s Grassroots Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank You Notes
Very few legislators receive a thank you letter, usually they see only rants. It’s not only polite but it is likely to stand out and be remembered the next time you visit with your legislator or one of the Medical Association lobbyists visits him or her.
The most effective message is polite, succinct, insightful and conveys a personal constituent story.