In theory, each of the U.S. Senators and Representatives is responsible
to all of the citizens of the United States, but in practice they are much
more responsive to personal appeals from their own constituents. The three
ways to influence your legislators by personal contact are: a letter (good),
a telephone call (better), and a face-to-face meeting (best).
What do I say to my legislators? Your first step is to educate yourself.
Check the various sections on the home page. Then
consult the ACLU's "How
to Lobby" web site.
See Kevin Lindemann's Talking Points for the
meeting with Rep. Hastert's staff member for a good example.
The Illinois U.S. Senators are Richard
J. Durbin (D, Springfield) and Peter
G. Fitzgerald (R, Inverness).
Who is my representative and how do I contact him/her? The number
of our House district is printed on that little card that we received in
the mail from the Election Commission that most of us have tucked away
somewhere. It has not been made easy for us either since congressional
districts cut across county, township, and municipal boundries. Fortunately
the web has come to our rescue and the best way to find out this vital
information is to access the ACLU,
or the State
of Illinois web sites and enter your complete address (or 9 digit ZIP+4
code). Click on the legislator's name to get the contact information (address
and telephone number for both district and capitol offices).
Have a personal meeting with your legislator. There are three documents
that contain valuable information on planning, having, and following up
on a personal meeting with your Senator or Representative. They are
all similar but with slight differences. Pick the one you like best and
print it out and bring it with you to review just prior to your visit with
Telephone your legislator.Your legislator will most likely be in Washington
when Congress is in session and in the district office at other times.
Unless you have already established a relationship, you are unlikely to
speak to him or her personally even if you call right office.
Study the facts in advance and plan your call. You want your legislator
to cosponsor or at least vote in favor of a specific bill to change our
nation's response to terrorism.
Be sure to speak with the staff person who works on war and peace issues
at your legislator's office. Don't leave your message with the receptionist,
as your opinion will not be tallied. Give the person with whom you speak
your home address, and be sure to request a written response to your call-otherwise,
your opinion may not be "tallied."
Ask to speak to your legislator or to the member of the staff who covers
defense, the military or terrorism.
Hi, this is ---(your name)---, and I want to know Representative/Senator
______'s position on the our current actions in Afghanistan. Is Representative/Senator
__________in favor of the continuing assault that is taking so many innocent
It is important to me that Representative/Senator ___________ take a strong
stance on favor of ending the indescriminate military assault and employing
anti-crime tools to apprehend and punish the criminals responsible for
the events of 9/11.
Please send me a written response with the member's position to these crucial
questions. We are counting on the strong support of every Legislator. As
a constituent, I will be watching this vote closely.
Send a letter to your legislator."Tips
on Writing..." is another ACLU document. These tips will help increase
the effectiveness of your letter.
"Leave behind" or "mail in" materials. It is a good idea to create a single
sheet to summarize and remind your legislators of your main points. It
would be even better if you could personalize the material to address the
principal concerns (civilian casualties, cost, erosion of civil liberties...)
of the legislator.