Thursday, August 23, 2007

How (Not) to Contact Your Representatives

Congresswoman Melissa Bean visited the place I work today to take a tour and give a talk. It was a short talk, but at the end she opened the floor for questions. I asked her what the best way was to get in touch with our representatives if we have a concern or an opinion. Her answer was worth sharing: email is the best way, getting a group together of like-minded people to all email on the same topic is even more effective, and using the Postal Service is a good way to make sure no-one sees your letter for 90 days.

As I suspected, they get thousands of emails, so their staff reads through and condenses it all into a report for the representatives. Numbers make a big difference here. If you are the only person writing on a topic, it doesn't get as much notice. If suddenly many people start showing concern about an issue, the representative can see that from the report. She said that on "common" topics, you can expect a pre-prepared response in about 2 weeks. On more unusual topics, you may be waiting 2 months because it can take a while to form a new position.

Congresswoman Bean was careful to point out that using "Snail Mail" really slows down the path of your letter. Because of the screening that is done, mail will take about 90 days to move through the system and get to someone who cares about its contents. If you have to mail a physical letter, she says to send it to the branch office instead of Washington D.C.

Here is a jumping-off point to find out who your representatives are, and how to contact them.

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