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Working with Elected Officials

In many cases, advancing 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 an elected official’s job to respond to the needs and concerns of the people they represent, including those who aren’t yet able to vote. Here you’ll find how to contact your representative through phone calls, letters, and how to meet with 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? Most representatives are only interested in hearing from people who live in their district, but occasionally it might be 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.

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 way 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.)

When to Contact

Contacting your representatives consistently throughout the year can show 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:

Writing Letters and Emails

If you are nervous about talking on the phone, you can still write a letter. Here are some tips:

  • Keep it formal and under a page. Letters should be printed, not 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

You can also use our template for writing letters here.

While typed letters are more likely to be noticed, an email is better than nothing. The same rules apply and make sure to include your mailing address.

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OUR BLOG

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