Published under request of
couple of kids from
Brenham Community Center, Texas.
(Email by Sandra G.)
Just because you
can't vote yet doesn't mean you can't voice your view on things that
matter to you.
representatives in congress represent everyone in their
district, including children. By reaching out to your congressman or
woman, you can help influence their vote on
potential laws and regulations that affect
you, your family, your friends or your community.
congressmen and women really do care what their constituents (the
people they represent) think.
They even have
staffers whose sole job is to tally up the opinions of everyone who
contacts the congressional office. Quite frequently, these congress
members will change their vote on something if as few as seven
people call in their support or dissent.
That means a few
minutes of your time can make a huge difference.
Who do I contact?
kids, is represented by three members of the U.S. Congress.
Remember that the
U.S. Congress is made up of two branches:
One of your
representatives is in the House of Representatives.
There are a total
of 435 districts in the United States, and each elects their own
House representative. Your congressman in the House is generally
addressed by the title "Representative [Last Name]," but may also be
called "Congressman [Last Name]."
Your other two
representatives are in the Senate, and both represent your
entire state. They are addressed by the title "Senator [Last Name."]
There are two senators per state making 100 total in the U.S.
The House and
Senate vote separately, and both must approve a bill in order for
the President to have an opportunity to sign it into law or veto it.
That means if you care about an issue, you will want to contact all
three of your representatives.
To find your
congressman and senators, you can
input your home address here.
To learn more about
how Congress works, you can check out this site called
Congress for Kids.
What happens when you
This depends on how
you decide to contact your congress members, but the end result is
usually the same.
A staffer will
produce a "call report" that includes all forms of contact.
Here is an
example of a Call Report
attained by the
Borgen Project. This report will be
shown to the congressman or woman to help them learn how their
constituents feel about a particular issue.
If a majority lean
strongly one way or another, they often take this into account when
usually do not have as many voters reaching out.
For example, you
may see a lot of calls against hot button issues of the month, but
you can also have an influence on smaller bills that are important
to you but not covered as much in the news.
By having you and a
few family members and friends contact congress, you can help put
issues on their radar that they might otherwise be unaware of.
How to Contact Congress
There are six main
ways to contact your representatives on congress.
We have ranked them
below from worst to best:
Writing a letter
idea of writing a letter to congress has been the go-to
response to anybody who complains about public issues.
probably heard, "Well, why don't you write your
representatives?" As it turns out, writing a letter is
usually not the best way to get your voice heard.
there were several anthrax scares in Washington, D.C. A
lethal white powder was placed in letters sent to multiple
congress members and many staffers were sickened. Ever
since, letters to congress undergo strict security protocol.
process can take several weeks, which means timely issues
may be voted on before anybody even opens your letter.
detriment to writing a letter to congress is that these
letters are opened and read by staffers, who tally the
general yes or no of the voter's opinion;
however, all of your well-thought-out points are never
passed on or seen by your actual representatives.
end up taking a lot of time without a lot of pay-off.
while, social media was considered the best way to contact
your congress members.
sending a Tweet or posting on their Facebook wall is easy
and fast. Nowadays, though, everyone is turning to
social media to rant and rave to their congress members.
staffers who manage the pages are flooded with responses and
may have a hard time keeping up. It's easy to have your post
or Tweet missed in all the hubbub.
outlets like Twitter make you limit complicated thoughts
into 140 characters - not the best way to really state your
another common way to contact congress. If you choose to
send an e-mail, try to keep it short and sweet at a maximum
of 4-5 paragraphs.
that e-mails suffer the same problem as social media -
because they are easier to send, many others are sending
yours may get lost in the shuffle.
your congress members is one of the fastest and most
effective ways to get your voice heard.
Not as many
people take the time to call as they do to write an e-mail,
so you're more likely to be paid attention. The downside to
a phone call is that you may not have time to explain all of
are used to spending just a minute or so collecting your
information (name and home address) before tallying you as a
"support" or "opposed" vote.
really have the time to listen to all of your reasons.
your congressman or woman in person can have a big impact,
especially as a kid.
members love meeting and listening to kids because not many
come visit them! They are far more likely to remember you
and your opinion if you see them face-to-face.
is finding them when they're in town. Senators are not
often local to you, but your member in the House of
Representatives will usually be in your local area quite
call and ask when they are expected to be in their local
office or when they may be hosting a town hall event, during
which all constituents are welcomed to a meeting hall to
voice their concerns.
or not, the number one best way to contact congress
is by fax.
machine uses a phone line to transmit documents and images
so the recipient instantly receives a print-out of the
document you are sending. As a kid, you may think of fax
machines as quite archaic (and you're kind of right), but
let us explain.
With a fax,
you get all the pros from the above options and eliminate
several of the cons.
example, you will have the space to explain all of your
thoughts and reasons in writing, but unlike a letter, it
will be received instantly with no risk of anthrax, which
makes your representatives more likely to see your letter
with their own eyes.
an e-mail, a faxed letter is not as common and will
definitely get notice and attention from staffers who may
pass it straight along to the congress member you are
As a kid, your
letters don't have to be complicated. Keep it short and sweet.
My name is
Kelly Jones, and I am a student at West Park Elementary School.
I am 9 years old and recently did a science fair project on the
environment. I learned that gas emissions from our agricultural
industry are just as harmful as our car emissions.
I also learned
that H.R. Bill 79 is seeking to solve this problem by limiting
emissions from factory farms. I hope you vote yes on this bill
to help save our environment so kids like me can grow up and
have a healthier Earth. Thank you.
If you are older,
you can write more paragraphs with more arguments and citation of
facts, figures, and statistics.
Sample phone call script
"Hello, my name
is _____. I'm a supporter of ____ and I would like
Senator/Congressman ___ _to vote Yes/No on H.B./S.B. 54."
At this point, the
staffer will usually ask for your address and ask if there is
anything else you want your congressman or woman to know.
leave your address
This helps the
congress member know that they do, indeed, represent you.
They'll also send you a form letter in response.
letters are drafted and sent to everybody who contacted them
about an issue and will usually thank you for contacting their
office and let you know how they chose to vote.
what bill you are contacting them about
While it is
acceptable to call in on a general issue (such as "I want to
protect the environment"), it's even more helpful to have a bill
number associated with a potential law.
If you don't
know of one, you can search for current congressional bills by
subject matter using
them know you're a kid
this makes your message more meaningful to them, since not many
kids contact congress compared to adults. They may even go out
of their way to make your experience special.
them why you care!
If you are
contacting them about school funding, let them know what you see
"on the ground" as a kid in school.
If your parent
is a police officer, you can plead for more funding for
bulletproof vests. If you love animals and want to protect them,
explain why. Let them know how these issues affect you as a kid.
facts and research if possible
If you are
unsure where to start, ask a parent, teacher or librarian.
They'll be able to help you find the facts and statistics you
need to back up your opinion.
use form letters
pre-written letters provided by organizations that fight for
certain issues in congress.
are easy for people to sign and send, but once a staffer catches
on to a form letter, they can be unintentionally dismissed or
ignored. It's always better to put your own thoughts out there.
members deal with angry constituents a lot. A little bit of
kindness goes a long way, especially when coming from a kid who
just wants to get involved in the civic process.
calls must be concise
If you have a
lot to say or want to relate personal experience, a written form
of communication is your best bet.
contact your own congress member
exception is if you want to contact a leader like the Senate
Majority or the head of a special committee when they are
involved in a particular issue of interest to you.
the hand-written letters
Yes, they are
charming, but they can be hard to read and easy to skip over.
Still, as a kid, feel free to send your artwork, especially if
it is relevant to the topic about which you are contacting them.
don't be intimidated!
members are there to serve you, even if you cannot vote
yet. Since they do not hear from kids as often as adults, your
fax, letter or phone call is sure to brighten your
If you're too
scared to make a phone call, try practicing our script above, or
keep the phone on speaker mode with a parent nearby to help you.
have your parent help you fax or mail a letter if you prefer to
take your time and write down your thoughts.
Whichever way you
contact your representatives, you cannot truly go wrong.
It's fast and easy
for kids to contact congress, and it allows you to participate in
the American democratic process.