Contacting Legislators

by | Jun 12, 2021

The United States of America is the world’s oldest democracy, founded on the principle that citizens should have a say in how they are governed. While not a true democracy, we do have a representative democracy, where we elect officials to represent our interests. This post is not meant to be political in any way, so no matter your beliefs or your affiliation, it is always a good idea to contact your legislators on matters that are of importance to you.

Every HAP meeting ends with a Call to Action whereby members can call or email their representatives or senators to consider a position on a certain bill, to co-sponsor a bill, or even urge them to move a specific bill out of the committee stage for a full vote. Actions are also included in the newsletters that HAP sends out. Unlike petitions that make the rounds of social media, contacting your legislators has an impact.

Calling Legislators

“Several lawmakers, along with those who work for them, said in interviews that Ms. Waite is right: A phone call from a constituent can, indeed, hold more weight than an email, and far outweighs a Facebook post or a tweet.” Victor, 2016

While one call from one individual may not have an impact, outreach efforts from multiple people can make a difference. When calling, you will reach an intern or lower level staffer. However, do not be convinced that this contact is not crucial, because it is. As a common practice, calls are logged by staffers and then presented on a regular basis, usually weekly, to the representative or senator. Sure two calls may not be a blip on the radar, but 10, 20, 30 or 40 people calling about the same issue, that will get someone’s attention. Based on the numbers, staff members can use a methodology to extrapolate those numbers across the larger population within the legislator’s district, and can lead to action. Never underestimate the power of your voice!

Of course, there are rules to engaging with legislators, and as members of HAP, we require that you adhere to the following rules when calling:

  1. Speak clearly. If you have to, write a script so you can get all of your points across (HAP also provides sample scripts with their action items).
  2. Keep it brief. Provide the reasons you support a particular bill and why you feel it would be beneficial for the legislator to support it.
  3. Make sure to include your name, your location, and contact information for any follow-up.
  4. Be polite and respectful no matter what.

 

Emailing Legislators

While calling does seem to have a greater effect than emailing, that does not mean the act has no value. Emailing allows one to provide more information, although it is not a time to write a novel. It also allows for a more “human” approach. While most of the time emails are also handled by a staffer and not actually the legislator, that communication is logged as well, and can contribute to developing a quorum on an issue that might help to sway a legislator, especially one who may be on the fence about a particular issue. The link provides tips for writing an effective and compelling email.

Please do not ever believe that calling or emailing does not work – it does! Groups like HAP and others across the country have proven that on a daily basis and worked to effect policy decisions on both the local and national level.

Resources

If you are not sure who your legislators are, you can use the following links to look them up using your address and state information:

United States Senate

United States House of Representatives

Pennsylvania General Assembly

Remember that you have a voice and can use itto make a difference in the lives of animals in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the U.S!

Citation:

Victor, Daniel. Here’s Why You Should Call, Not Email, Your Legislators. November 22, 2016. New York Times.

AUTHORS

Aimee Douglass is the Director of Compassionate Living. She has been a volunteer with HAP since 2018. She is an active participant in the Compassionate Living campaign and in 2019 tabled at her first event for HAP. Aimee works in the healthcare industry and has a bachelors degree in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and a masters degree in Communications with a health care focus from Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in Penn Hills with her husband and their three dogs.

Hannah Lewis is the Assistant Blogger and grant writer at HAP. She has been working with HAP since July of 2020. By day, she works as a literacy educator. She is an avid hiker, but also loves to spend time indoors curled up with a book and her long-haired cat, Frejya.