Visiting Legislators in Their Home Districts
Most legislators travel to their home districts often. They go home, in part, to meet with constituents either individually or in town meetings. You can set up a meeting with your representative or senator during one of these visits or attend a town meeting forum to ask a question about your issues.
Requesting your meeting
Make your request in writing and follow up with a phone call to the scheduler. Suggest specific times and dates for your meeting. Let them know what issue of legislation you wish to discuss.
To prepare for the meeting
Decide in advance what you hope to get out of the meeting—an agreement to sponsor a particular bill, for example. Research the legislator’s previous position on your issue. Arrange for a small group of people who share your concerns to participate in the meeting. Decide ahead of time what the group will say and who will speak on each issue. Limit your visit to one, or at the most two, topics. If you want press coverage of your meeting, clear it beforehand with the member. Don’t “ambush” the member with surprise or unexpected press or by taping the meeting without permission.
During the meeting
If the legislator cannot meet with you, or cancels the meeting, ask to meet with his or her staff.
Toolkit for Action
Start the meeting by thanking the legislator or staff person for his or her own time. Present your case clearly and succinctly. Give examples of the impact the proposed legislation will have on your home, state or district. Make clear what you want your legislator to do and why. If you don’t know the answer to the question, don’t make it up. Offer to find out and send information back to the office later.
Keep control of the time. You will have twenty minutes or less with a staff person, and as little as ten minutes if you meet with your elected official. Be businesslike. Leave a brief position paper or fact sheet with the member when you leave. Follow up your visit with a thank you note.