Working with Elected Officials
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.
There are several different ways you can start getting involved and make your voice heard. On this page is an overview of how to get in contact with your elected officials, which is a good starting point whether you want to meet face-to-face with your elected officials either through an appointment or at a City Council meeting or communicate with them through writing letters and making phone calls.
Who should I 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. Regardless of who you are contacting though, the rules remain the same.
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
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:
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.)
Meeting Face-to-Face with Politicians: Setting up an appointment with your representative sends a strong message about how serious you are and is very important if you are asking them to create a new piece of legislation. It is also important that you attend your City Council if they are voting on a proposal.
Writing Letters and Making Phone Calls: Good options, especially if you are addressing federal officials, or when you need your representative to act quickly on something.