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MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

Being an effective advocate on Healthcare issues means knowing where and when to exert your influence. These Action tips offer critical information for you to make your voice heard in Congress and in the Media. These Tips can be easily modified and applied to help make your voice heard with state and local Legislators as well!

Make Your Voice Heard:

Your Federal Elected Officials

U.S. House of Representatives:

To find information on any member of the U.S. House of Representatives, click here. On this page, you will be able to find all Representatives by their last name or by their state. The information provided includes a Representative's Capitol Hill office address, phone number, and any committee and subcommittee memberships he or she may hold.

U.S. Senate:

To find information on any U.S. Senator, click here. On this page, you will be able to find all Senators by their last name, state, and party affiliation. The information provided includes a Senator's Capitol Hill office address, phone number, and e-mail address. By clicking on the "Committees" tab at the top of the page, you can also find any committee memberships he or she may hold.

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The Telephone Call

A phone call is a good way to let your legislator know how you or your organization feels about a particular issue. Congressional offices pay close attention to these calls as a measure of voters' sentiment. An outpouring of calls can sometimes change the vote of a legislator, but even a small number of calls can make a difference.

When you call the Washington office, ask to speak with the staff person responsible for the legislation you are calling about. The average Legislative Assistant handles six or seven major subject areas and is under constant deadlines to help the member with speeches, hearings, etc. By asking for the "Health Legislative Assistant," your comments about our issue will get to the right person. Don't be upset or take it personally if that staffer is not available.

Where to call:

Most Senators and Representatives maintain one or more offices in the state or congressional district they represent. You can find the phone number for that office in the U.S. government section of your telephone directory or by calling information.

If you wish to call the Washington, D.C. office, you can reach your Senator or Representative through the Capitol switchboard. Simply dial (202) 224-3121 and ask for your Representative's or Senator's office.

Email and the Internet

All congressional offices are accessible by e-mail. If your Senators and Representative are online, you will find their e-mail address at www.senate.gov or www.house.gov. The same rules apply as if you were writing a formal letter (see The Letter).

You can find information on pending legislation, copies of bills, and congressional schedules on the Web at the congressional Web site, known as "Thomas" (for Thomas Jefferson). The address is: http://thomas.loc.gov.

Additionally, there is a wonderful web-system set up at www.congress.org that provides the public with all the tools to E-mail your federal, state and local legislators as well as your local and national media! It’s a great site.

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The Letter

Your letters can and do make a difference. Legislators, in addition to media outlets rely on letters and public comment to find out what people are thinking. Moreover, letters and E-mails can be the first step in building an ongoing relationship. Here are some guidelines to follow when writing:

  • Spell your legislator's name correctly. If you know your legislator at all, use his or her first name--your letter will receive more attention.
  • Write legibly or type your letters.
  • Address your legislator properly: For a salutation, use "Dear Representative (last name)" or "Dear Senator (last name)."
  • Use your own words. Personal letters are much more effective than postcards or petitions.
  • In e-mail, remember not to use "net jargon." Use full sentences and paragraphs--remember, it's just like a letter!
  • Clearly state the topic you are writing about and your position on it in the opening sentences. For example: "I'm writing to support public disclosure of hospital infection rates."
  • Refer to bills by name or number if you can, but don't delay a letter if you don't have the exact bill number.
  • Stay on one topic. If you want to write about other issues, send another letter later on.
  • Give reasons for your position. As appropriate, use personal experience or a concrete example to make your case.
  • Raise questions. A well-formulated question can get a personal response.
  • Keep it short. One page is best! Use two pages only if necessary for clarity and completeness.
  • Be polite, positive, and constructive. Don't plead, and never threaten or insult. You want to win a friend, if not now, then on other issues in the future.
  • Be timely. Write before decisions are made and action is taken. But don't write too long beforehand--a letter six months before a vote will probably be forgotten.
  • Use your name and address on both the envelope and the letter. This helps staff in replying, and it identifies you as a constituent. (For e-mail, include your full name and address at the end of the e-mail.)

Write to thank your legislators when they take an action you agree with. It's surprising how few letters of thanks are received on Capitol Hill. If a staff member is particularly helpful, thank him or her, too--or mention your gratitude in your letter to your legislator.

The same is true for media contacts. If you read a newspaper article that you agree with or which is consistent with your views, write or E-mail the paper to let them know your appreciation. It’s a great way to start an ongoing relationship.

Be friendly, respectful, knowledgeable and time-efficient with your comments and requests. The best way to endear yourself to them is by not taking up a lot of their day with repeated and long phone calls.

Writing them thank you notes and expressing your appreciation for their efforts when they do produce results is a great thing to do. Everyone likes to feel appreciated and respected!

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Last updated on: 10/25/04

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