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Voices’ Blog

How to Connect with Your Legislator

Posted:  -  By: Chloe Edwards

Elected officials work to turn ideas into laws; they spend a great deal of their time identifying problems faced by their constituents to create solutions. Remember, legislators are everyday people like you and me. In fact, they are elected by the people who live in their district. Here, you see Outreach Coordinator, Chloe Edwards, pictured with one of her elected officials, Senator Jennifer McClellan on Mental Health Advocacy Day. Legislators typically strive to know what issues matter to their constituents in order to serve the people in their district. This is why it is imperative to connect with them in order to help them identify the issues that matter to you.

How to Connect with Your State Legislator

Visit “Who’s My Legislator” service

Enter your name and address to find your state delegate, state senator, and Congressional representatives.

All legislators have their own websites and presence on social media. Follow their accounts to stay updated.

 Election day was November 5th; because of this, your senator or delegate may be changing. Here, you can find the state Senate election results. At this link, you can find the state House of Delegates election results.

Who Can Advocate?

State and local employees cannot advocate in their official capacities or on their time as state/local employees. If you are a non-profit employee, you can advocate as a constituent at anytime! You can find more information on the rules for nonprofit advocacy by visiting this website. Remember, you can share a story that highlights policy with us anytime without directly lobbying.

Preparing for Your Meeting 

Once you know who your legislator is, you can always email, call, or visit his/her staff to schedule an appointment. Chloe Edwards can help you prep your talking points in order to communicate issues that impact Virginia’s children in a concise way.

In preparation, research your legislators’ areas of interest, their voting history, committee assignments, and full-time profession. This will help you gain insight on where they stand on your issue. In addition, it will highlight some positions of power they may hold in relation to the policy you are highlighting. It is always helpful to reference a specific bill number if you are advocating to help pass a particular piece of legislation.

  • Develop an agenda
  • Assume you will only have 10-15 minutes (much less during legislative session)
  • Assemble supporting materials (e.g. fact sheets, coalition documents, etc.)

Communicating with Policymakers 

Here, you see our Mental Health Policy Analyst, Ashley Everette Airington, communicating with Senator Hanger. In all of your interactions with policymakers and staff remember these key points:

  • Be positive and nonpartisan.
  • Be personal
  • Be persistent and patient
  • Stay on message
  • Never give inaccurate information
  • Relax

Begin the meeting by introducing yourself. State the purpose of your visit. Be clear about your position (“I support because/I oppose  because). It is always influential to personalize the issue by telling a story; we also encourage you to make the issue relevant by talking about something that is occurring in their particular district. Be a good listener, but if the conversation drifts into a different direction, tactfully bring the conversation back to the issue at hand. Always thank your public official for meeting with you at the end of your visit.

You do not have to prepare alone! We can help. Prepare to take advantage of these advocacy opportunities and use our advocacy toolkit. Schedule an appointment with Outreach Coordinator, Chloe Edwards, using the form below in order to go into your meeting or advocacy day well prepared!

Preparing Your Talking Points Session!

Book your appointment with Outreach Coordinator, Chloe Edwards, to get prepared for advocacy!

 

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