Talking to Your Reps in the District

It's almost July 4th and Members of Congress are in their states and districts. Over the next few days, they will attend events, give a few speeches, and talk with constituents before heading back to Washington on July 9 for what may be a flurry of activity leading into the August recess.

While town hall meetings are scheduled in August, much of the important summer legislative action takes place in July. Especially in years with midterm elections, July is an important month for finishing up legislative business. Here's a few tips on getting your message to your reps when they are home in the district this July:

Some advocacy tips for interacting with Members in the district:

  1. Your story is your power: One of the most important tools in a legislator's toolbox is a story from a real constituent. If you are concerned about a particular issue, gather real information about how that issue is affecting your family, school, business, or community.

  2. Get your story "out there" : Use POPVOX to get your story on the record. Share your letter on Facebook and Twitter or via email so that your friends and neighbors can help you amplify the message in your district.

  3. Schedule a meeting: Most members welcome the opportunity to meet about the issues with constituents in their district offices. As with any professional meeting, you can call or write to the office requesting the meeting. Come prepared with background information and leave-behind materials so that staffers can follow up on the discussion.

  4. Write a letter to your local newspaper: most Members of Congress read their local newspapers everyday. That is especially true when they are home in the district. Writing a letter about something up for debate in Congress, with a local perspective, is a great way to inform your neighbors and get the attention of your Member and their staff.

  5. Call into local talk radio: Over the Congressional break, chances are good that your Members of Congress are listening! It's a great time to call in and join the discussion.

  6. Attend an event and  respectfully make your point when it is time for constituent input. A brief, to-the-point, heartfelt comment or question is much more effective than yelling or personal attacks. It is also very effective to bring a one-page summary of the issue to share with the legislator's staff member at the event.

  7. Say thanks! If you do get to talk with the legislator or staffer, follow up with an email or handwritten note to thank them for their time. Even if you disagree, you can say thank you for the discussion. Having that point of personal contact will help you check in on the status of the issue as it moves through the process.

Keep in mind:

  1. Your legislators are members of your community. Even if you belong to different parties, you both still share common concerns. 

  2. Even if you disagree, your legislator is there to represent you. Your opinion matters!

  3. Legislators are humans. They respond to politeness and thank yous, just like anyone else. If you have a point to make, you will always be more successful by being genuine and respectful — and you should expect to be respected too!

There is no better way to celebrate July 4th then by exercising your right to make your voice heard on the issues that affect you. We at POPVOX are glad to help!