Ask Stacy: How Can I Contact My Representatives?

Photo (cc) by Biggunben

In last week’s Ask Stacy column, we had a very long reader question. This week we have one at the other end of the spectrum:

Is there a way to contact our congressman by email, to voice our opinion or protests?
Thanks.
— Sally

I’m glad you asked, Sally! I’d been meaning to bookmark this information for myself anyway.

Below you’ll find information on how to contact your representatives, as well as why you should and how you can more effectively make your voice heard.

How to make your voice heard

Bookmark this site: Contact Elected Officials

It’s a page of USA.gov. There you’ll find links to pretty much anyone you’d care to reach, from the White House to your local school board:

I tried a few of these links and found it pretty easy to find the person or agency I was looking for. For example, I clicked on “State Legislators,” which took me to a page where I could select my state. From there, I was directed to my state’s (Florida) site for its legislators. Providing my address showed me the names of my state senator and state representative, as well as my U.S. representative and my two U.S. senators, along with their phone numbers and a contact form to email them.

The whole process took less than two minutes.

Another helpful link was “Contact your government, by topic.” If you need assistance with a particular issue, anything from food stamps to vaccines, you’re a click or two away from help.

Why you should make your voice heard

There was a time not long ago when contacting your congressman meant taking out the typewriter or pencil and paper, writing a letter, finding a stamp, then mailing an envelope to Washington, D.C. You had to feel pretty strongly about something to go through that kind of hassle.

While the links above are proof that’s no longer true, too many Americans act as if it is. Fact is, contacting President Barack Obama is almost as easy today as sending a text message to one of your friends.

So why don’t more people do it?

I suspect it’s because we feel small and powerless. There are more than 300 million people in the United States, so one voice doesn’t amount to much.

Then there are the corporations and other deep-pocketed parties using tactics individuals can’t, like super PACs and lobbyists, to influence government decision makers.

Even if the communication takes only a few seconds, isn’t an individual just whistling in the wind?

Maybe. But if we all whistle together, we can be heard. And getting a few — or a few hundred thousand — people to send emails is a lot easier than getting those same people to pull out typewriters and envelopes.

In my opinion, during my 25-plus years as a consumer advocate, there’s never been a time when big money had more influence over our elected officials. But there’s also never been a time when “we the people” were better positioned to do something about it.

In short, because of the ease of making our voices heard, more and more Americans are doing it. Join them.

How to make your voice heard more effectively

Every day I get emails from readers, some disagreeing with an opinion or article we published or video we produced. Those communications fall into two distinct categories: those clearly and calmly stating their case, and those “shouting” by USING ALL CAPS, spewing venom and calling me names.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than informed debate. There’s nothing I enjoy less than ignorant lunatics.

If you write me to tell me I’m a moron and you’ve already unsubscribed from the Money Talk News email list, why should I reply? I’d rather spend the time on a relationship that’s salvageable.

Remember that when contacting your elected officials. If you’re reaching out to them, something is bothering you — probably a lot. But if you want your voice heard, keep it both civil and logical. While it’s tempting to call someone an idiot or suggest they’re on the take, doing so eliminates any incentive they might have to listen to your point of view.

Better tack: Mention the influence you have in your community and your past support, if appropriate. Then persuade with logic, not venom.

If you were in Congress, which of these two communications would influence your vote?

Dear Mr. Congressman,
I was proud to vote for you in the last election, and used my considerable influence as a local businessman in your district to get as many votes for you as possible.
While I’m still proud of my choice and support, many of my friends and I disagree with the position you’ve taken on the subject of _________.
Here are three reasons:

or

Dear Mr. Congressman,
WHAT KIND OF AN IDIOT SUPPORTS _______? No wonder I voted against you and all my friends did too. You should be run out of town on a rail, and next election, you will be, you BUM!

Bottom line? The reason they’re called “representatives” is because they represent us. They can’t do that if they don’t know what we think. So tell them. But as with all communication, the more effectively you do it, the more likely you are to get the result you want.

Now, here’s a video that will definitely come in handy in Washington. It’s about how to tell when someone’s lying.

Got a question you’d like answered?

A great way to get answers to just about any money-related question is to head to our Forums. It’s the place where you can speak your mind, explore topics in-depth and, most important, post questions and get answers. It’s also where I often look for questions to answer in this weekly column. You can also ask questions by replying to our daily emails. If you’re not getting them, fix that right now by subscribing here.

About me

I founded Money Talks News in 1991. I’ve earned a CPA (currently inactive), and have also earned licenses in stocks, commodities, options principal, mutual funds, life insurance, securities supervisor and real estate. Got some time to kill? You can learn more about me here.

Got more money questions? Browse lots more Ask Stacy answers here.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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