Personalized communication is the best way to influence legislators; however, technology is changing the way we communicate. Most (if not all) Minnesota legislators now have access to the Internet, but how they receive information varies from legislator to legislator.

Many are beginning to see E-mail as a viable mode of communication, and in some cases will take the time to respond. Some have set up an automated response.  Take this as a confirmation that your E-mail has been received, not as an indication that you should resend your message or that your message has been read and you should send a follow-up note.

The best way to find out whether or not your legislator really uses E-mail is to call his or her office and ask a staff person.  The office staff will be happy to tell you the best way to get your message through—by phone, fax, E-mail or letter.  The easiest way to look up the phone number and E-mail address for the legislators who represent you is to use the Legislative District Finder, but there are other ways to figure out Who to Contact if you’re looking for a committee member or the legislators who represent one of the schools in your district.

It’s also important to know that some Minnesota legislators still use a “form” process for E-mail submissions.  This means you can’t E-mail them directly without going first to their site and then filling in the form.  The form cuts down on blast E-mails and spam, so you can’t really fault them even if it is annoying.

Once you’ve decided to send an E-mail follow the same general guidelines as for sending written letters.

Tips for E-mailing Legislators

  • Put your Zip Code at the beginning of the Subject Line (This lets the legislator know you’re a constituent right off the bat.)
  • PERSONALIZE each message.  Do not send the same E-mail to all legislators, but a specific message to your representative or senator.
  • Remember to include your name, postal address and phone number.
  • If you’re E-mailing about a specific piece of legislation, make sure you know the status of the bill before you ask your legislator to do anything.
  • Keep it short and to the point.  E-mail is best suited for short messages.  If you need more than 2-3 paragraphs, consider sending a letter.

E-mail may not be your legislator’s preferred way of receiving information, but if you don’t have time to write a personal letter, make a phone call or schedule a meeting, sending a short, personal E-mail is better than nothing at all!

Additional Resources

Communicating with Congress Project – The Internet has made it easier and cheaper to contact Congress than ever before. However, technological developments have been so rapid that neither citizens and the organizers of grassroots advocacy campaigns (the senders) nor congressional offices (the receivers) have learned to use it in ways that facilitate truly effective communications between citizens and Members of Congress. As a result, while more messages are being sent to Congress, it seems that less actual communication is occurring, Congressional Management Foundation.

  • Individualized postal letters have more perceived influence on undecided Congressional members than either individualized e-mails or faxes.
  • Many congressional staff doubt the legitimacy of identical form communications, and want to know whether communications are sent with constituents’ knowledge and consent.

Tailor your message to your local concerns!