Impact Feature Issue on Political Activism and Voter Participation by Persons with Intellectual and/or Developmental Disabilities

Do’s and Don’t’s When Meeting With Elected Officials

As a citizen you can share your views directly with your elected officials. It might be your Senator or Representative in the U.S. Congress or in your state legislature. It might be your city council member or a board commissioner. It might be your mayor or governor. Anyone in elected office is there to serve the public, and you can let them know what you think about issues by having a meeting with the person or their assistant at their office. Listed here are some things to keep in mind if you want to meet with an elected official.

Do's When Meeting

  1. Make an appointment.
    • Call or write a letter ahead of time.
    • Confirm the appointment.
    • Appointments with the official’s aides are also good.
  2. Be on time.
  3. Be positive and friendly, and tell them the reason for your visit.
    • Introduce yourself.
    • Tell them who you represent.
    • Tell them the issue you want to discuss.
    • Tell them what you think.
    • Tell them what you think the official should do.
  4. Give facts to support your position.
  5. Personalize the issue.
    • Tell them how the bill or action will affect you. Share your personal experience.
  6. Leave a written statement of your views. Also leave fact sheets, and your name, address, and phone number.
  7. Have a picture taken with the official (if possible).
    • Use the picture for publicity.
    • If the picture is not taken or did not turn out well, ask for a photo of the official.
  8. Write a thank you letter.
    • Thank the official.
    • Say what happened at the visit.
    • List the follow-up steps that the official and you said you would take.
    • Ask the official for a commitment.
    • Request a reply.
    • Send a copy of the photo you had taken, identifying the people in it and the date.

Dont's When Meeting

  1. Don’t arrive unexpectedly; officials will not be able to see you.
  2. Don’t become angry if the official cannot see you.
  3. Don’t be late for your visit.
  4. Don’t yell at the official or staff.
  5. Don’t discuss more than two issues.
  6. Don’t make up information.
  7. Don’t leave issue papers, action alerts or other lobbying documents with the staff.
  8. Don’t forget to write a thank you letter.
  9. Don’t ignore the official for the rest of the year; stay in touch.

Do’s and Don’t’s adapted with permission from A Congressional Insider’s View: How to Be an Effective Policy Change Agent by Robert Silverstein, Center for the Study and Advancement of Disability Policy, Washington, D.C.