Contact Your Elected Officials
The information on this page was adapted from the pamphlet,
How to Contact Your Legislators
Grassroots Lobbying, by Bone and Associates,
210 N. Person Street, Raleigh, NC 27611: (919) 832-0207.
How to Express Your Views
The ultimate goal is to influence the decision of the policy maker toward your view of an issue that is important to you. Simple rules to follow are:
- Know the facts. Educate yourself to all sides of an issue involved before making the contact.
- Be as brief as possible. Express your idea clearly and to the point. Do not ramble but stick to your topic.
- Be reasonable. Legislators ultimately pass a $10 billion budget each year. Each biennial session, an average of 3,500 bills are introduced. Legislators are not experts on everything, but they have access to good information.
- Follow up. Follow the issue to the end--which could mean more than one contact. Thank the legislators when the results are conclusive.
How to Contact Your Legislators
The best contacts are frequently when legislators are at home in their districts. Call for appointments if possible and be on time.
North Carolina's is a "citizen legislature"--most members are not professional politicians, just average citizens offering themselves for public service. Treat these legislators as your friends or neighbors. Remember that while they need their private time, they did ask to serve you. A gentle reminder about your issue is in order and expected--that is democracy.
When planning to visit your legislator, do the following:
- Make an appointment. If you drop in without an appointment, you may miss your legislator, wait interminably, or force your legislator to postpone scheduled business--which creates negative feelings rather than goodwill.
- Always introduce yourself, even at the second, third, or fourth meeting. Don't put your legislator in the awkward position of having to ask you name or of bluffing his or her way through a meeting without calling you anything. Given the number of people your legislator meets, it is possible he or she may not remember you.
- Get down to business quickly. Chat a little, but as quickly as possible tell your legislator why you are there and what you want him/her to do. Don't waste a busy person's time.
- Be brief, direct, and concise. In an early visit, give a quick outline of the total legislative agenda for the session. As bills come up for consideration, explain specific issues at the appropriate time. If possible, discuss only one issue per visit. It is much better to contact the legislator with one issue at a time than to try to discuss a "laundry list" of issues.
- Be courteous. Your role is to explain, inform, and persuade--not to attack, threaten, or belittle. Legislators should always be referred to and treated with courtesy and respect, regardless of the positions they favor. Remember, your agenda has several issues. You may have their support on others if not this one.
- Be reasonable. Make it easy for your legislator to vote with you by giving good reasons. Don't be arrogant or argumentative. Don't win an argument and lose a vote. Don't threaten; instead, work on changing your legislator's mind if he or she does not support your position.
- Leave brief materials. Don't leave an armful of material for your legislator to read. Leave a briefing paper. You might offer to leave detailed information for the staff to study.
Telephoning Your Legislator
During a legislative session, you may call a legislator through the telephone center at the Legislative Building (919) 733-4111. Each legislator has an individual telephone in his/her office. Be prepared when you make your call:
- Decide the purpose of your call and list the points you wish to make during the conversation.
- Be specific about the issue you wish to discuss. Be to the point with your rationale.
- If the issue has been filed as a bill, know the number of the appropriate bill, its sponsor, its general purpose, and the rationale for your support or opposition.
- Find out when and where the next action is scheduled on the bill, if filed, and if it is in committee and how he/she plans to respond in committee.
When the legislature is in session, you may have some difficulty in getting a call through to your legislator immediately. Leave your name, home address, and telephone number.
Writing to Your Legislators
Legislators may be written in care of the Legislative Building or Legislative Office Building. The proper form for addressing your legislative representatives is as follows:
The Honorable "John Doe"
North Carolina General Assembly
State Legislative Building, Room 000
Raleigh, NC 27601-2808
Dear Representative Doe or Dear Senator Doe
Generally, legislators do not respond to "form letters" that have the same message but different signatures. The best letter is one composed by you, in you own words, to a specific legislator. Do not ramble or attempt to "soften" the impact of what you want to say. Click here for sample letters.
E-mailing Your Legislators
E-mail is a quick, economical, and effective way to contact your legislators-- especially effective when legislature is in session and you need to send an immediate message. . You can locate your representatives and find their addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses at the General Assembly website.
USE YOUR PERSONAL EMAIL, NOT YOUR OFFICE EMAIL. An appropriate salutation for House members is "Dear Representative"; Senate members may be addressed as "Dear Senator."