Emailing and Calling Congress

Email

Written correspondence is best for issues that aren’t urgent. Here are a few tips:

IDENTIFY YOURSELF

Remember: as the person responsible for electing your member of Congress, you hold power. Start each communication with your name and address so as to identify yourself as a consistent. In the text of the letter, explain your job as a law librarian or legal information professional and how the issue you are writing about affects you. If you want a response, you must include your name and address, even when using email.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Your letter should address only one issue and should identify the subject in the first paragraph. Articulate your support or opposition to the issue, explain how it would affect you, and ask your member to take a specific action or stance. If you are writing in reference to a particular bill, refer to that measure’s House or Senate bill number and title. The most effective letters are no longer than one page in length.

Don’t send form emails— they are often ignored. See AALL’s Legislative Action Center for sample letters to get you started, but consider adding personal experiences to make your letter much more effective.

Phone Calls

For urgent matters, we encourage you to make a phone call to your member of Congress’s Washington, DC or district office. To find your Senators’ and Representative’s phone numbers, you can check their websites or call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

PLAN AHEAD

Telephone calls should be prepared in advance and cover only one issue. Before making a call, be sure to have a clear understanding of the issue, AALL’s position, the reasons for that position, and the action to be taken on the issue. It may be helpful to jot down a few notes before placing the call or use AALL’s talking points. Calls should last no longer than three to five minutes, unless the staff member wants to talk longer to gather additional information about the issue.

WHO TO CALL

When placing a call, always ask to speak directly to your member of Congress or the legislative staffer who handles the issue. If neither the member of Congress nor the appropriate staff person is available to speak (likely), you may leave the message with the receptionist. Ask that the information be forwarded to your member and request that the appropriate staff person get back to you with an answer on your member’s position on the issue. Then, let the Government Relations Office know about your call, including who you spoke with and how it went.

OTHER TIMES TO CALL

Most Congressional offices keep a tally of the number of calls they receive and about what issues people are calling. These numbers are a good reflection of the priorities and interest of their constituents. In addition to calling your member of Congress about urgent legislation, you can call the office to express thanks to a member who has voted in favor of your position. Likewise, if your member voted in opposition to your position, you may call to politely express disappointment and say that you hope to count on the member’s support on other issues in the
future.