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The Path to Maine Lawmaking - Maine Department of the Secretary of State

A Letter Writer's Guide

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“Your senator and representative want to hear from you – it's the only way they can represent you effectively. Take the time to write them and you just might be surprised at the results. If you prefer, you may send an email ."

 

 

 

Letters to legislators are one of the primary forms of constituent contact. And every letter counts – so follow these simple and time-tested guidelines and have an influence on the legislative process by voicing your ideas to the people who represent you:

  1. Use clean, white 8½ by 11 paper. If you are writing from your school, you might ask to use the school's letterhead stationery.

  2. Be sure your exact return address is on the letter as well as the envelope. (Envelopes sometimes get thrown away before the letter is answered). Follow the format of a business letter, remembering to include the date.

  3. Try to keep the letter to a page or less. It takes extra effort to condense your thoughts into a single page, but it's worth it if you want your letter to be read.

  4. Identify your subject clearly. If writing about a bill, use the Legislative Document (LD) number. (If you're not sure of the number, call Legislative Information at 287-1692).

  5. State your reason for writing. Explain how the issue would affect your community. Try to be objective and specific, and back your position with reliable facts and figures. Clearly state whether you are FOR or AGAINST the bill or any of its features. You may think that the facts speak for themselves but the legislator may be less familiar with the subject than you.

  6. Your own words will make the crucial difference. Avoid stereotyped phrases and sentences that give the appearance of “form” letters. They tend to identify your message as part of an organized pressure campaign – and produce little or no impact. Don't repeat slogans or phrases from a newsletter or form letter.

  7. Even if your position is inspired by a group to which you belong, write your letter in your own words – it will be much more influential than the words prepared by an organization.

  8. Be reasonable. That is, don't ask the impossible, don't threaten or demand, and don't make disparaging remarks – doing so will not help your cause.

  9. Ask your legislator to state his or her position on the issues in reply. As a constituent, you're entitled to know.

  10. Consider the timing of your letter. Writing while a bill is still in committee is the most effective time to influence your legislator. Your senator and representative can usually be more responsive to your appeal at that time rather than when the bill has been approved by the committee. Of course, this is not always the case. Sometimes your legislator may reserve judgment until the sentiment of his or her constituency has crystallized.

  11. Thank your legislator if he or she pleases you with a vote on an issue. Everybody appreciates a complimentary letter – and remembers it. On the other hand, if a vote is contrary to your position, don't hesitate to let him or her know (in a courteous way). That will be remembered, too.

  12. If extending an invitation or requesting a meeting, suggest a time and date, or several dates, for the visit. Be flexible and accommodating.

  13. Remember that courtesy is appreciated at all times. You are trying to inform your legislator about the impact of the proposed legislation, and he or she will appreciate your help.

  14. Address your letter and envelope clearly and correctly.

    Sen. John J. Jones
    3 State House Station
    Augusta , ME 04333

    Dear Senator Jones:

    Rep. Mary J. Jones
    2 State House Station
    Augusta, ME 04333

    Dear Representative Jones:


  15. At the end of your letter, write your signature over your typed name after the closing:

Sincerely,



Mary Ellen Smith

Very truly yours,



Bruce Jordan