For most years I have been teaching social work students, I have taught policy classes. There is an expectation of political engagement for social workers, and this aspect of our Code of Ethics is something I teach within the first week of policy class. But political engagement is something that is (should be) for everyone. As I tell my students, the personal is political, and the political is personal.
Another thing that is important is making sure that they know who their elected officials are, so that they can begin engaging with them. This is a really useful website because it can be used by someone from any location. I just have students put the address on their voter registration card, and then they get info on the major elected officials at federal, state and county levels. (The county level includes your mayor, DA, and county commissioner type people and sheriff, but doesn’t include offices like school boards, unfortunately.) https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials
Here is some thorough but easily digestible information on writing letters to your elected official: https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/advocacy/direct-action/letters-to-elected-officials/main Signing a petition is something, but crafting your own letter sends a much stronger message.
Phone calls: I hate making phone calls but I had a guest speaker in class one semester who had been a staffer for a few different elected officials. They said they paid attention to phone calls more than emails and letters (and they paid more attention to emails and letters written personally than when they received 50 copies of essentially the same letter b/c it had been written by an organization and shared with followers).
Whenever I call an elected official (and last week I called 26 of them), I always identify myself by name, and by the fact that I am a resident and voter. I share my “ask” of them, usually how I want them to vote on an issue, and can boil down everything to two minutes. I can go longer if they have questions, but I am prepared for 2 minutes. The New York Times backs up the importance of phone calls as well: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/us/politics/heres-why-you-should-call-not-email-your-legislators.html
Tracking down how your federal elected officials voted on an issue is trickier (more time consuming) than finding out who they are, but it is do-able: https://www.senate.gov/legislative/HowTo/how_to_votes.htm
Tracking down how your state elected officials voted on an issue can most likely be done by going through your state legislative website and searching for voting records help. In Tennessee that’s https://www.capitol.tn.gov/help/
I have rarely made in person visits to offices of elected officials; I should probably work on that more myself. And then there is in person engagement through protests and other assemblies: a post for another day!
One thought on “Basics of engaging with elected officials”
Thanks for the excellent info!!