Grossmont Cuyamaca Community College Application to The Elected Official Letter

submit a letter to an elected official. This peer response assignment allows students to submit rough drafts of their letters in order to receive feedback from student peers.

By now you are probably looking for ways to get your issue noticed by people who have the power to help you. To get the best results, you will probably want to try several of the direct action methods discussed in this chapter. In this section, we will show you the best way to write a letter to your elected officials.

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A well-written personal letter may be the most effective way to communicate with elected officials. They want to know how their constituents feel about issues, especially when those issues involve decisions made by them.

Your elected officials usually know what advocacy groups are saying about an issue, but they may not understand how a particular decision affects you. A well-written letter describing your experiences, observations, and opinions may help persuade an official in your favor.

Until a short time ago, you had two options if you wanted to contact an elected official: telephone and the mail. In the last several years, e-mail has been added and become the medium of choice. It’s fast, it gets read, and – at least in the U.S. – virtually all elected officials, from town councils to the President, use and welcome e-mail communication.Any guidelines for writing letters in this section – the style to use, the information to include – apply to e-mail as well. A letter to your Congressman, whether it’s sent through the post office or electronically, should be formal and as well-written as you can make it. A political communication, to be taken seriously, should send the message that you care enough about the subject to take some care in writing about it.In the days before e-mail, officials generally considered letters more important than phone calls, because they took more thought and effort. A proper e-mail letter carries the same message – this person has really thought about this, and has put some work into sending his opinion.

Why write a letter to elected officials?

Maybe you’re not convinced that writing a letter to your elected official is the best way to spend your time. There are several reasons it’s worth your while, including:

  • To explain to an official how a particular issue affects you or your group.
  • To express support for a proposed law, policy, or course of action.
  • To oppose a proposed law, policy, or course of action.
  • In any of the above cases, the letter may include information about the issue that the official may not have, or suggest an alternate course of action that she hasn’t previously heard about.

  • To demonstrate to an official that his constituents are aware of an issue and have a real interest in the outcome.
  • To inform an official about an issue or situation, giving background and history that she may not have.
  • To attempt to persuade an official to vote in a certain way on an issue, or to take other related action.
  • To build your reputation as a thoughtful person in the eyes of the officials, and thus make your criticism or support more influential, or to put yourself in the position of the person to be consulted when the official needs information about your issue.
  • To request a meeting to discuss the issue or some related matter of concern.
  • To thank an official for support given, or action taken.
  • To criticize an official for a past vote or action.
  • To put an official on notice that you and your group are watching his actions, and that he needs to take your votes into account at election time.
  • To ask an official to state her position on a particular issue, or to reveal her voting record.
  • To ask for help or support.
  • This type of letter often falls under the heading of “constituent support,” and concern individual problems with government – being denied military disability payments, for example, or being singled out for harassment by a local official. The reason it’s included in this list is that it can sometimes lead an official to work to change procedures, policies, or laws that discriminate against or make life harder for a whole class of people – veterans, farmers, widows, etc..Another purpose of this type of letter is to enlist the official’s support in a community or larger initiative of some sort.  This may be a request that he become a legislative champion for the effort, that he simply lend his name to the initiative’s list of public supporters or sponsors, or that he serve on a board or steering committee for the effort.

    The letter may include information about the issue that the official may not have, or suggest an alternate course of action that she hasn’t previously heard about.

    This type of letter often falls under the heading of “constituent support,” and concern individual problems with government – being denied military disability payments, for example, or being singled out for harassment by a local official. The reason it’s included in this list is that it can sometimes lead an official to work to change procedures, policies, or laws that discriminate against or make life harder for a whole class of people – veterans, farmers, widows, etc..

    Another purpose of this type of letter is to enlist the official’s support in a community or larger initiative of some sort. This may be a request that he

    become a legislative champion (Links to an external site.)

    for the effort, that he simply lend his name to the initiative’s list of public supporters or sponsors, or that he serve on a board or steering committee for the effort.

    When should you write letters to elected officials?

    When would you want to write that letter? Whenever an issue arises that concerns your group, but especially when:

  • You want an official to consider a certain action or policy (e.g., increasing funding for a program for senior citizens).
  • There is an upcoming vote on a policy that concerns your group. Letters are most effective when the vote is about to be taken. This is a good time to use e-mail.
  • You want to respond (positively or negatively) to a completed action or a change in policy (e.g., enacting a law that requires people to wear seatbelts).
  • You want to point out a deficiency or need in a particular area (e.g. more public transportation to the community health clinics, more police patrols through your neighborhood).
  • You need information (e.g. about what happened the last time a certain issue came up for a vote).
  • You need advice (how to approach another official, what kind of event will attract large numbers of officials to take notice, etc.). In this instance, you’d probably be writing to an official that you’ve already had positive contact with.
  • Another way to look at this question is to think about when a letter will have the most effect. There are particular times when letters are more likely to be carefully considered, and when officials are more likely to be responsive.

  • Just before an election. Most elected officials become extremely anxious to please when they’re running for reelection.
  • Right before an important vote. Officials will usually be receiving communication from many people on both sides of the issue when an important vote is coming up, so this is an especially crucial time to let your opinion be known.
  • Just before and in the midst of the budget process. One of the most important things that legislators, town councils, and some other bodies do is set the budget for the coming year. Whether your concern is local, regional, state or provincial, or nationwide, most of the coming year’s policy and action related to health and human services, the environment, public safety, education, transportation, and a number of other important issues is determined, not by laws, but by the amount of money allowed for them in the annual budget. If you have priorities for funding, now is the time to make them known.
  • Immediately after an official has done something you approve or disapprove of. There are two reasons why this communication should be immediate. The first is so that the action is still fresh in the official’s mind, and he can respond to your support or criticism. The second is that he will be hearing from folks on the other side, and he needs to know either that not everyone approves of his action, or that, regardless of all the negative letters, there are people out there who think he’s doing the right thing. Officials need to know who supports or objects to which of their positions. It can help them continue to work for the things you care about in the face of opposition, or can push them in that direction if they’re not doing it already.
  • The really crucial times to write this sort of letter are when an official is under attack for doing something you believe in – think of officials in the American South in the 1950’s and ‘60’s who supported racial integration – or has just done something outrageous – given out a billion-dollar contract in return for a huge bribe, for example. In either of these cases, the official needs to know either that you support her wholeheartedly, and will work to help her, or that you want her to resign now, and will work to have her prosecuted and jailed.

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