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How to get through to your elected officials

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It’s that time in the legislative year when the first series of consequential decisions are being made. Lawmakers are receiving thousands of emails from Oklahomans who want their point of view to be heard. Here are a few tips for how to make sure your email is read.

State Rep.  Jason Murphey

State Rep. Jason Murphey

First and foremost, always identify yourself as a constituent of the representative or senator to which you are writing and include your street address beneath your signature.

We receive many emails from people who are emailing all the representatives. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it makes it much more difficult to sort through responses from all areas of the state to find our constituent emails. We are particularly interested in the emails from our district, because those are the people we represent, so those are the emails we look for.

At times, mass emails are designed to make each representative think that the email originates from a local constituent. These emails may contain text such as, “As a constituent, I request for you to vote against House Bill 1001!” Of course, the writer is a constituent of someone, so this statement isn’t incorrect, but it is misleading to all but one representative and one senator. The reader still does not know if this is really a constituent or not and may disregard the email.

The following statement will be much more effective at catching the elected official’s attention: “As your constituent, please honor my request to support House Bill 1001.” An actual address placed under the signature of the writer provides a substantive verification of the writer’s claim to live within the district. Many elected officials are extremely familiar with their districts and upon viewing the address, they will quickly understand where the writer lives.

We also receive many emails from petition services which allows the sender to submit his point of view on important issues. Oftentimes these services provide the sender with a form letter to send. It’s much more effective if the sender forgoes the standard form letter and instead inserts his own text. A form email prevents us from gauging the intensity of the writer on a particular matter. We know it is a form letter because we are probably receiving that exact same letter from others. A customized message, in the words of the writer, tells us about the writer’s true point of view and is much more meaningful than the standard form letter written by a third party.

There’s also an effective means to express opposition to an elected official’s proposals. Too often, writers take an aggressive stance which may cause the elected official to disengage completely from meaningful dialog. It is much more effective when opposition is accompanied by positivity such as thanking the elected official for his stand on other issues with which the writer agrees before asking him for a vote on another issue.

Even though the elected official is working for you, it’s a good idea to keep the lines of communication open by not aggressively pushing them into agreeance . Some of the most passionate writers fall into the temptation to threaten to vote or campaign against the elected official if he does not do what the writer wants. This isn’t an effective means for soliciting support and the writer who resorts to these tactics will likely not have the ear of that elected official on future votes.

And lastly, but maybe most importantly, never drink and email. On occasion we receive aggressive prose composed by what I can only assume is an intoxicated individual – at least I hope that is the case, because that is the only good explanation for the email. Once the profanity appears, it’s my personal policy to create a filter for that particular sender which simply files away all of his future emails without immediate review by me.

I am also grateful for all of the many kind and encouraging emails which I receive in response to these updates. They are all appreciated!

It’s important for elected officials to read each of their constituent’s emails and I hope this article has been helpful in providing a few tips to get through to your elected officials.

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.

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