Writing your representative or senator

Buy at Art.comYes, there are many times when I feel it’s an exercise in futility, but I continue to try to get the attention of my elected “representatives” in Washington. My last missives were a plea to vote against for corporate welfare for Boone Pickens (by forcing people to buy his products) and why on earth the interim senator from Massachusetts was still voting after he was no longer a senator.

Some thoughts from my experience:
You’re going to end up on a mailing list. My highly cynical self thinks this is the only reason Congress does electronic communications because they certainly aren’t interested in actually hearing from us. But they think we’re interested in hearing from them. To the tune of weekly newsletters extolling the ways they’re fighting on our behalf (ha!) and recorded phone messages. There’s no actual conversation that goes on here.

Keep it short. The best way to get your point across and have it counted (if they’re keeping track) as for or against an issue is to be brief and to the point. Send as many emails as you want (or until you give up on the user interface), making each about a different issue you care about. Be clear about what you want, be clear about the action you expect, be clear about the purpose of the email. (No, I have no idea what actually happens to your email, if anyone reads it, etc. But there is no excuse on their part to not know what we expect of them if we follow this guideline. Rambling attacks just allow them to justify the idea that they know better than us and we require them to take care of us.)

Wildly different user experiences. One Congressman, two senators. And there is no consistency is the user interfaces employed to allow you to send an email via a form. The senators want to know what your letter is about – and give you a set list to choose from. Only one of them allowed me an “other” category. I realize this helps them sort the (hopefully) massive numbers of email but it wasn’t really a conversation starter. Particularly when what you want to talk/complain/grouse/bitch about is them. Hmm. One senator’s form looked like it never made it out of 1999; the other I got an immediate “thank you” email. In both cases, I included an extra note to say they didn’t have permission to put me on a mailing or calling list. Because, of course, they require you to provide every detail about where you live before you can submit. Boo. My congressman’s site works well, although it takes forever to give him all the details. How about creating a log-in for me based on my email address so I don’t have to do that every single time? Oh, wait, that’s right. You don’t really want to hear from me.

Yes. I’m cynical. As I’ve watched the GOP gubernatorial candidate debates, I get even more so in some ways. (Hutchison is all for state’s rights and self-determination until you’re going to do something she doesn’t like. God forbid another state has different laws than we do.) But I believe that speaking up after the election is just as important as speaking up by voiting. So I persist. And I’m calling for you to do so as well.

Contact your Representative
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