Write to Your Representative
A meaningful letter to your legislator could be the tipping point to a legislator as they consider a tough vote. Legislators read correspondence – especially when it is personalized and clearly from a constituent. Emails are more common and more time sensitive, and hand written letters usually captures greater attention. The following guidelines should be considered when writing to your representatives.
The following guidelines should help you in corresponding with your representative:
- Identify yourself. Refer to your district if you are a constituent.
- Keep it short. For a letter, try to limit yourself to one type-written page. In an email, stick to three or so paragraphs. Focus on one issue or bill. If you have several issues to discuss, consider multiple letters/emails.
- Your purpose for writing to your elected official should be stated in the first paragraph. Be clear and concise and include your “ask,” whether it be general support or the call for a specific vote. Use the bill number or budget amendment number relating to your issue (“Please support HB 123”). Indicate the bill or budget number at the top of your letter or email.
- Make the issue local. Relate the impact of the legislation on your local area.
- Describe why you are concerned about the issue, using a brief personal story or example if appropriate.
- Avoid form letters/emails. Be personal – if you are using a sample or form letter, be sure to adapt it, especially in the first sentence and paragraph! Legislators and their aides recognize form letters and are more likely to be swayed by your letter if it is personal.
- Thank him or her for considering your opinion.
- The signature at the end of your letter or email should include your full address including zip code.
- Because of the fast pace of the legislative session, fax and email are typically preferable to postal mail during the session.
Letter Writing Resources
There are many samples of letters to elected officials on the internet. They can take many different forms (personal story, bulleted facts/arguments, thank you letter for a vote you agree with, etc.), and serve different purpose. You can also download an RPS form letter example here. Keep in mind that a specific, personalized letter captures greater attention than a general form letter.
Email is a more common way of communicating with your representative. You can email them through the contact forms or their email addresses on their official website. Here are some additional guidelines if you are writing an email:
- Use a short, accurate subject line to capture the attention of reader (usually a staff member).
- Use formal and polite language similar to a formal, mailed letter.
- Provide concise information about your request.
- If you have an email attachment, explain it in your email.
- Always ensure your full home and/or business address is included in the email.
Address written correspondence in the following manner:
The Honorable John Smith
900 East Main Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Dear Delegate/Senator Smith:
[Add your letter here]