How to Contact Your Elected Officials
Be the change you want to see in the world. A simple statement, but with powerful implications. Is there something you care passionately about? Do you want to make your voice heard? Start by contacting your elected officials.
Navigating the legislative realm can be daunting, but it begins with a simple understanding of how the United States Congress is structured. As per the U.S. Constitution, Congress consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives, and the Senate. The Senate is made up of two members from each state, resulting in a total of 100 members. Each state thus has equal representation. Senators serve a six-year term, with terms staggered so that every two years approximately one-third of the Senate will be up for re-election. The Senate has some powers the House does not have, such as consenting to or confirming the appointments of Cabinet secretaries, federal judges, other federal executive officials and uniformed officers, military officers, regulatory officials and ambassadors.
The U.S. House of Representatives also consists of elected officials. The number of voting representatives in the House is fixed by law at no more than 435 members in total. The number of representatives per state is proportionate to the state’s population. Also referred to as a congressman or congresswoman, each representative is elected to a two-year term serving the people of a specific congressional district. Among other duties, representatives introduce bills and resolutions, offer amendments and serve on committees.
How do you contact your Senator or Representative? There are many sites available that will help you find the contact information for your elected official. One such website is USA.gov. Here you will find assistance for determining who is your elected official, and you will receive contact information for the President of the United States, Senators, Representatives, Mayors, and more. You may choose to call the office of your elected official or write a letter/email.
Right: Senator Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) releasing a tagged monarch butterfly at the Minnesota Valley USFWS National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Wendy Caldwell, 2015.
There are several steps to follow when writing a letter to your Senator or Representative. You can find sample letters here. A good rule of thumb is to keep your letter short and to the point—generally one page in length is recommended. First, begin with addressing your elected official appropriately. Start by writing “Dear Senator” followed by their last name for Senate officials. Begin with “Dear Representative” followed by their last name for House officials.
Next, introduce yourself, to identify that you are a constituent. Include any credentials you might have. Then, state why you are contacting your elected official. If a specific bill is involved, include the title and number of the bill whenever possible. Be specific about your topic. Be factual, and state why this topic affects you. Provide resources that back up your statements. Conclude your letter by stating the specific action you want taken. Ask that you be contacted with a response, and provide your contact information. Be courteous and respectful. Make sure to thank your elected official for his or her time.
If you choose to call your elected officials, use your letter as your talking points memo. Your letter will serve to remind you of important points you want to make during the conversation. It is wise to follow up your phone call with a letter.
Contacting your elected officials can be a bit intimidating at first. But remember, they are your ELECTED officials. Exercise your right to vote, and hold your elected officials accountable. It is a right every U.S. citizen must uphold, and our duty to our country, our fellow Americans and our planet.
- The Mayors' Monarch Pledge: Your mayor or local executive has the opportunity to commit to taking action to support monarch butterflies at the local level. You can encourage your mayor to take part in the pledge, which consists of a minimum of three monarch conservation actions in the habitat, education and policy realms. Find out more about the pledge and how your mayor can join in!
- Local Weed and Mowing Laws: Sometimes local laws and ordinances will have restrictions on the growing of milkweed or native nectar plants, or stipulate mowing of potential monarch habitat. Education efforts from concerned citizens can motivate a change in these policies. If changing these laws entirely is not feasible, smaller scale steps can also be taken, for example creating a permit to allow growing of milkweed or nectar plants. For educational resources about monarchs and milkweed, visit our Educate Others page. Also see the MJV handout Mowing: Best Practices for Monarchs for recommended timing of mowing and management actions as an educational resource.
- Pollinator Friendly Ordinances: Many cities interested in pollinator conservation have created a formal ordinance or resolution, identifying pollinator friendly practices their city will conduct and designating their city as pollinator friendly. You can view an example ordinance here, this ordinance passed in Stillwater Minnesota in 2015.
A special thank you to Candy Sarikonda, Monarch Watch Conservation Specialist and Wild Ones member, who contributed content to this page.