In many cases, the advancing of youth rights requires a change in the law, which means working with politicians. While this can seem overwhelming, it’s important to remember that it is a politician’s job to respond to the needs and concerns of the people they represent, including those who aren’t able to vote. Here you’ll find how to contact your representative through phone calls and letters, which will also help if you want to meet them in person.

Who to Contact

Before contacting anyone, you have to figure out what are you asking them to do. Is it to create new legislation or to support something already proposed? Is it something within their power to change? At what level of government are your efforts going to have the most impact? It is almost always easier to change a law that covers a smaller area than a large one, but making a decision about where to focus can be tricky, so let us know if you have any questions or want to discuss your ideas.

How to Find Your Representative

Finding the people that represent you is as easy as knowing your address. Here are some helpful websites:

At the federal level

At the state level

At the city or county level

Most elected officials have a preferred ways to contact them and this should be found on their web page. (Some have different addresses whether the legislative chamber is in session or not, for example.)

Representatives Not in Your District

While you’ll mostly be contacting the person that represents the district where you live, work, or go to school, it is also a good idea to reach out to politicians that have shown support or concern for similar issues. For example, if you are working on lowering the voting age, you can reach out to politicians who have supported voting rights in general.

When to Contact

Contacting your representatives consistently throughout the year is a great way to show persistence and that your issue matters to you. However, many state legislatures don’t meet for months at a time, so if you want your representative to introduce or support a bill, you should be aware of the legislative session dates in your state. Here are two resources to help you:

Making Phone Calls

Phone calls are the most useful when an issue or bill is under current consideration and are considered more effective than letters. If you call a representative’s office, you will most likely be speaking with an aid or an intern. This doesn’t matter though, as elected officials keep extensive records about who calls their office and why. If enough people call about an issue, it will gain the notice of the politician. Keep your phone call short; explain exactly what it is you’re concerned about and what you hope the politician will do. Ask your representative’s staff to respond to your request and to update you on the outcome of the issue.

Writing Letters

Letters to politicians should be written as business letters, not personal letters. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it formal and concise (no longer than a page). Letters should be typed or printed, never handwritten.
  • Personalize your letter – don’t write the same letter to everyone.
  • Include the following:
    • Your name and address and that you are a member of NYRA (and any other relevant organizations)
    • How the issue affects you personally
    • Nonpartisan evidence to support your argument
    • Acknowledgement of their efforts on similar issues (if applicable)
    • A direct request for action. Include the name and number of the bill, if applicable
    • request for a reply

Paper or postal letters are more likely to be noticed, but an email is better than nothing. The same rules apply as with typed letters. It is also important when sending an email to your senator to include your return postal mailing address. Some email addresses will not accept attachments, so it is better to leave them off.

Social Media

Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. can be used to contact your local representatives directly if you just want to send them a quick note. It is unlikely that they will reply (or even see your comment), but it will be seen by others, so it can put some pressure on them to address concerns that have a large following.

Example Phone Script

Hello, my name is __________. I am a constituent in ________ [the name of the representative’s district] and I’m calling today to urge Senator ________ to support __________ [the name and the number of the proposed bill]. This bill will increase voter turnout among both young people and their parents and will make politicians more responsive to the needs of young people. [Name up to three positive effects of the bill, no more than a sentence or two on each.] I am also requesting support for this bill because, as a high school teacher, I am aware that my students possess the critical thinking skills and interest to participate in local elections that affect their daily lives. [You should also add a message about how the bill will affect you personally, if you can].

Thank you for sharing my message and I would like a reply on how the Senator will be voting on this issue. [Make sure to give your contact details.]

Example Letter

Remember, any letter you send should be personal to you.

[Today’s Date] The Honorable [First and Last Name – spelled correctly!] [Street Address] [City, State, Zip Code]

RE: [If you are writing to ask for support on a particular bill, you can state the bill number, author and subject here]

Dear Assembly Member/Senator/Representative [Last name]:

My name is [your first and last name] and I am [student/name of profession/community member] who resides in your district.

I would like to thank you for your political leadership on issues that directly affect young people in our community. [You can be more specific about their voting record if you know it.] I would also like to ask you to co-sponsor HCR 2046 which will change the voting age from 18 to 16 in local elections. This bill was authored by [names of authors].

For several years, I have been interested in our government and political process. I have canvassed for candidates that I support and donated money to their campaigns. And yet, because I am 16 years old, I am left out of the political process during election time. It is very important to me that I my voice is counted along with the other citizens who care deeply about the future of this country. [Tell your representative why the issue is important to you and how it affects you and your community.]

I understand that lowering the voting age to 16 may seem like a radical idea, but there are many reasons to do so. Many countries, including Brazil, Austria, and Argentina, have a voting age of 16. Two cities in Maryland, Takoma Park and Hyattsville, have also lowered the voting age to 16 for municipal elections, which has helped to increase voter turnout there. Sixteen-year-olds are just as capable of voting as eighteen-year-olds. They have jobs, pay taxes, and can be tried as adults in court. Lowering the voting age to sixteen would encourage other elected officials to better respond to the needs of young people in regards to education, the environment, and the economy. [State why you support or oppose the bill or other issue here. Choose up to three of the strongest points that support your position and state them clearly.]

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I would appreciate your support on this issue by becoming a co-sponsor for HCR 2046 and I look forward to hearing back from you regarding your decision.


[Your signature] [Your first and last name] [Street Address] [City, State, Zip code] [Email]