Even if you’re not old enough to vote, you can make your voice heard. When you contact the men and women who are elected to serve you in Washington, D.C., in your home state legislature, or even in your local community, you have a platform to let them know where you stand and what you hope will happen as a result of your contact. With that said, here are some tips for effectively making your voice heard.
Be civil and respectful in your communications.
Most elected officials really do care about what you have to say, but not if you start by lobbing insults at them. If you’re really ticked off about something, take some time to blow off steam before you start compiling an email you’ll regret as soon as you hit “send”.
Get your facts straight
Do a little bit of groundwork to make sure you know what you are talking about – stuff like knowing the proper bill numbers ordinance issues. Elected officials will take your communications more seriously when they know that you know what you are talking about.
Email, phone or letter?
The honest reality is that a handwritten letter gets more attention than any other form of communication. Period. Emails are normally just tallied up (example: a congressman will know that he received 100 emails on an issue) as are phone calls. But when a handwritten letter arrives, elected officials know that you must really care. Here’s a thought – why not do all three?
Meet your legislators
Most communities have opportunities to meet your elected officials face-to-face in townhall meetings. Take advantage of these opportunities to express your views in-person. This really tells the officials that you care, and you might even find that you’re quoted in the paper.
Crank it up x 10
Once you’ve expressed your concerns, crank up the volume of your communications by getting all of your friends to do the same. By the way – have you created your own Teens for Life home page? If not, now is the time to do it!
So… this is why government classes are required
In almost every high school in America, students are required to take at least one semester of government classes (or civics or something like that). Rather than approach this as a stuffy requirement, take advantage of the opportunity to learn how a representative government really works. The more you know about the system, the more you’ll know about what you can do to have an impact.
Your elected officials in Washington
Remember that your state sends two senators to the United States Senate. Regardless of where you live in your state, both senators represent you. You are also represented by a member of the United States House of Representatives. This official (called a congressman or congresswoman) represents the district where you live, not the entire state. Of course, the President is elected to serve all citizens of the United States.
Your elected officials in your state
Most states have a system in which you are represented by a state representative, a state senator, and a state governor. You can do a quick Google search on your state to find out who is who. Most states have excellent state legislative sites that give you instant access to elected officials.
Your elected officials in your county or city
You’ve probably heard it said that “all politics is local” and to some extent that’s true. Local elected officials carry a lot of influence over such things as city ordinaces and so forth. You can also find details about your local government online.
Election day poll workers
In most communities, your high school will work with your local election office to recruit volunteers to help at the polls on election day. It’s a great way to learn more about the election process and to meet a lot of great people. Ask your school counselor if there are volunteer opportunities for you in local elections.