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Civil War Trust

Tips for Talking to Lawmakers

Legislators appreciate hearing from their constituents, and they are elected to represent our views.  Always give your legislator your name, address, and telephone number so that they know you are one of their constituents. Be sure to include this information whether you visit in person, call, or write.

When you contact your legislators, a short sentence or two about why you personally support or oppose a certain proposal is fine. 

Most importantly, always be courteous and clear when communicating with your legislators. Remember, legislators are people, too!

Do

*  Be specific and ask for action

*  Use time to your advantage

*  Carefully plan a strategy

*  Voice your position and solicit support from your legislator

*  Know your issue, and tell the truth

*  Share information

*  Always be punctual, polite, and patient

*  Be respectful

*  Follow-up: Write a thank you note

Don’t 

*  Burn bridges

*  Waste time

*  Lie or exaggerate

*  Make promises you can't deliver

*  Be argumentative

More Tips

Timing is very important. If the legislation you are concerned about is imminent, contacting your legislator quickly by phone or e-mail can be very effective. However, if you have time, take advantage of several influence techniques, such as writing a letter, or meeting with your elected Members of Congress and/or their staff members. The key is to use timing to your advantage.

Meet with staffers. Staffers are the key to getting work done. It is important to develop a working relationship with staffers who are assigned to your issue. When it comes time for action, knowing someone to call will pay off. The key is to develop a network that can put your action into play.

Voice your position to your Members of Congress. Legislators frequently act on behalf of their constituency, even if your legislator does not currently support your position it can be extremely helpful to contact them. Make your concerns vocal, and solicit support from your Member of Congress.

Know the issue. Legislators have several issues they are concerned with at any given time. Be sure that you have ready information based on sound, scientific research. Ask questions about your Members' feelings toward a particular issue, and be ready for your legislators to ask you questions about your position. Knowledge is power.

Share information. It is very important to relay any information you receive from your legislator to the members of your organization, community, family and friends. Information helps to broaden the audience.

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