Communicating with Your Legislator

Keep it brief: Keep letters to one page. Try to discuss only one bill or issue in a letter.

Identify yourself: Begin with an introduction of yourself or the organization on whose behalf you are writing, and be sure to state that you are a constituent. Make sure you write your return address on the envelope, so that the legislator’s office staff knows immediately that you are a constituent.

Get to the point: Follow your introduction with a brief statement of your issue or concern. If you are writing in reference to a specific bill, include the bill number (“HB” for House Bill and “SB” for Senate Bill). Follow your opening paragraph with a concise explanation of why you support or oppose the particular bill or issue. A few strong, well-thought-out arguments are much more effective than a laundry list of reasons to support or oppose a bill. Whenever possible, use bullet points to outline your arguments.

Personalize your letter: Research consistently shows that handwritten letters have the most impact. In making your case on the issue, use personal examples to further distinguish your letter.

If the legislator has supported your issues in the past, acknowledge this: Give reasons why the legislator must continue or intensify his or her support.

Be specific: Help the legislator understand why your position is important to his or her constituents. Include specific facts about how a bill will impact your district. If possible, include a local anecdote illustrating the problem you are seeking to address. Avoid the use of form letters or generic postcards — use your own knowledge and experience to inform the legislator.

Allow for follow-up: Include specific contact information and offer to act as a resource should the legislator or staff have questions or need additional information. In the letter, ask your legislator for a response. Where appropriate, state in the letter that you will follow up with a telephone call.

Communicate more than once, and/or persuade others to also write a letter: Persuade a like-minded friend, family member, or colleague to write a letter as well. Quantity is crucial. Legislators pay attention to issues when they believe that many of their constituents care about that issue. As you monitor the issue, communicate with the legislator through phone calls, additional letters, e-mail, or visits to ask for specific support or action as appropriate to the process.

Addressing correspondence:
To the State Senate
The Honorable (Full Name)
State House, (Room Number)
Rhode Island Senate
Providence, RI 02903

To the State House of Representatives

The Honorable (Full Name)
State House, (Room Number)
Rhode Island House of Representatives
Providence, RI 02903