" Maine Bikers Helping Maine Bikers "
Writing a Letter to Your Legislator
Handwritten letters are fine, as long as they are easily read. People who cannot write legibly should type the letter. Use dark ink on white paper. Avoid pink, purple or red ink. Use blue or black ink and white paper.
Your name and address should appear at the top right of your letter, not just on the envelope.
The date is next, centered. Note that sometimes the date is critical. For instance, if your letter arrives after your issue is already voted on, it is too late to help make an impact.
The next thing should be the proper address for whomever you are writing -again- not just on the envelope, but here inside the letter. I will list an example. This goes both on the envelope and then inside your letter on the left.
Representative Michael Michaud
1724 Longworth House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515-1902
The next thing is the salutation. This is where we use their title. An example:
Dear Representative Michaud,
Always begin your letter by identifying yourself as their constituent and identifying your issue. After you establish good communication you can drop this.
Example, "As a resident of your district, I am writing to tell you about my feelings concerning H.R. 412, the Kids Just Want to Ride Act of 2011. This bill would exempt kids' off-highway vehicles (OHVs) from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008 that effectively bans their sale beginning May 1, 2011.
Always identify legislation you support or oppose by using the bill number; and the bill title if you can. If there is any related legislation, a legislator or staffer might think your letter is about something different than you intended it to be.
Although you should be courteous throughout your letter, you do not have to apologize for taking a legislator's time; they work for and represent you. It is not ever a good idea to say anything like "I hope this letter gets past your secretary". It irritates staffers and frankly, staffers can be a lot of help to us so it is not a good idea to irritate them. The letter should be courteous throughout as we do not want to alienate “anyone”, we are simply asking for support to pass or defeat legislation.
Explaining why we are asking for it, or sharing why we feel the way we do helps them understand our position better and can mean the difference whether we gain their support or not . Give reasons for your position on the legislation you are writing about. Be reasonable and feel free to personalize the impact the legislation will have on you, your family, business, state, or community.
Example; The ban on youth-model motorcycles and ATVs will have an adverse effect on the recreation activities of the citizens of Maine. As a mostly rural state with abundant opportunity for off highway vehicle family recreation, the CPSIA section 101(b) will deny families a way to safely recreate together. The children would in all likelihood end up utilizing larger machines which would increase their chances of injury.
Don't assume they know how you will be affected by the legislation you are writing about because the fact is that many times they do not even have a clue. This is your letter and your chance - tell them about it.
Always recommend what a legislator should do, tell them what action they should take, ask them to support your legislation, etc. Never demand, order or threaten. Don't ask them to do the impossible. Your letter should present you as a reasonable and courteous person.
It is important to remember that when you are communicating with your legislators in person or in a letter that most legislation is the result of compromise. Often times, there is give and take, push and pull that lead to whatever legislation is finally produced.
It is important not to be threatening. Don't brag about your political influence or threaten how you or your organization will vote in future elections.
At the end of your letter, be sure to close by clearly asking for the action you wish for and that your legislator share their position on the issue.
Example: I strongly support this bipartisan effort and urge you to become a cosponsor today. Please let me know where you stand on this issue.
When closing your letter thank them for their time and public service. Your name should be legibly printed or typed and then sign your name above your printed signature.
Our GRASS ROOTS EDGE
It is also VERY important to write your legislator when you approve of something they have done. We are poised to capitalize on things like this in a LARGE way. Know that not many people get involved in communicating with their legislators. Our doing so is how we wield power reserved for effective grassroots organizations. The only thing fewer than the number of people who take the time to communicate with their legislators is the number of people who take the time to express their appreciation or thanks. It is sad but true. Most people who contact them are mad, and almost all of them want something. Please capitalize on every opportunity to say THANK YOU.
These expressions of appreciation will be remembered longer than you know because they can be very rare. Taking the time to make contact with your elected officials when you do not want something or to say thank you is a VERY valuable part of legislative grassroots politicking. It puts you and our organization in a very positive light.