Don't despair about not having any influence over national political decisions. The truth is, you often do.
1. Contact them all, especially your local leaders.
The U.S. Constitution gives ultimate authority to federal laws, but the federal government relies heavily on local policies and law enforcement officials to get things done. While huge portions of the federal government may seem out of reach to most voters, your elected officials and local leaders can be surprisingly accessible.
The offices of your U.S. Congress members and Senators are often the first point of contact. But do not limit yourself to the highest offices, especially if you feel lost in the crowd.
State governments handle the majority of issues most relevant to you, within each jurisdiction. Even your county and city leaders can take a stand on national issues, especially civil rights and immigration protections.
2. Interact with your elected officials and their staff as you would with your own bank.
A great rule of thumb for contacting your legislator is to treat your elected officials and their staff as you would with the staff of your own local bank. They are going to remember you, and staying positive works to your advantage. This makes more sense the more you think about it.
First and foremost, get to know their names and treat them with politeness and respect, especially if you reach an intern. Introduce yourself when you call or visit and ask how they are. It is easy to establish a relationship, even if you only call their office a few times a year.
Planned Parenthood's senior director of public affairs, Anna Eskamani, says the most effective way of reaching out to elected officials is through in-person contact.
"If available, personal meetings are always the best, and that includes their staff. Don't wait until there's an issue you are reacting to. Try to get to know them while they're in the district to start to build the relationship. Then, when you make that call they will know you," says Eskamani.
"This moves it away from transactionalism and into a meaningful relationship."
As with your bank account, watch the activity coming from that official's office, and call if you spot something you don't like or understand. Call every time you spot an error, and let them know how you feel about it. Just as you can switch banks if they won't reverse an error or they enforce a policy you don't like, if a politician won't change their decision, you can work to replace them.
Be sure to call and thank officials when they do something you support, especially if they take a brave stand on politically contentious issues.
3. Contact them in ways that count.
Phone calls are a great method of contact because you can program officials' numbers into your phone and call about different issues. Staffers note the numbers of calls for and against policy, and offices feel the heat when an issue gets the phones ringing.
Be brief on the phone and only request a response if you really need one. Reference the specific nominee or bill number you are calling about.
Remember that your comments become public record as soon as you say or send them. Comport yourself as if everyone will be able to read or hear your words. Your voting history and campaign-donation history are also public record, and some elected officials will check to see if you are a constituent and a "super-voter."
Emails are usually read at the local level, but not reliably by federal representatives. If you email rather than calling, use your own words and do not use an automated message or form letter. Staff members virtually disregard these, unless they are part of a massive coordinated effort.
Whenever possible, send a personal letter.
"People are surprised to get a mailed, written letter, and the odds of them opening and reading it are pretty high," says Eskamani. – DP
1. Call their office
2. Mail a letter to their office
3. Email an original note
4. Tweet or tag them in a post
5. Sign up for legislative alerts from the Florida House and Senate, and like and follow the Facebook pages of activist organizations you care about.
Florida Senate Tracker: flsenate.gov/tracker
Florida House Tracker: myfloridahouse.gov/sections/myhouse/login.aspx
American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
Floridians Responding to Refugees
Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Florida
Muslim Women's Organization Orlando
Black Lives Matter
Central Florida Jobs With Justice
1. Schedule an appointment with the official or their staff, and invite local officials to community gatherings. Begin by inviting a Soil and Water District Supervisor to coffee.
2. Form relationships with that official and their staff through regular, courteous contact. Introduce yourself at public gatherings and follow up with an email.
3. Attend public meetings and speak about issues that move you. Be brief, bring business cards, and prepare to answer questions from officials or audience members.
4. Apply to join a county or city public advisory board, and contact your representative there to discuss your application.
5. Support candidates for office by volunteering, donating to them early, and introducing them to everyone you know.
6. After researching your local issues and districts, run for office yourself.
LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT
Keep a list on the fridge or in your phone of who represents you at every level.
The White House
Plan to buy a postage stamp. Your calls and emails may not reach anyone for a while.
Phone, official comments: 202-456-1111
Phone, official switchboard: 202-456-1414
Phone, unofficial White House Inc.: whitehouseinc.org
Mail: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20500
What to contact them about: Trump's cabinet nominees and U.S. Supreme Court nominees, responses to Trump's executive orders and provocations, requests that the president disclose his full tax records and divest of his business holdings.
Capitol Hill Switchboard: 800-839-5276
Sen. Bill Nelson (Democrat)
Nelson is running for re-election in 2018.
Mail: 716 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510
Sen. Marco Rubio (Republican) Rubio just won re-election to the Senate, following his failed presidential bid.
Mail: 284 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510
What to contact them about: Bills filed in the Senate, Trump's cabinet and U.S. Supreme Court nominees, responses to Trump's executive orders and provocations, votes in their assigned committees, stopping the Obamacare repeal, advocating for minorities and those affected most by federal policy.
Capitol Hill Switchboard: 800-839-5276
U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan
7th District, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park)
8th District, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Rockledge)
9th District, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto (D-Orlando)
10th District, U.S. Rep. Val Demings (D-Orlando)
11th District, U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Lake County)
What to contact them about: Bills filed in Congress, responses to Trump's executive orders and provocations, votes in their assigned committees, stopping the Obamacare repeal, all federal policy, advocating for minorities and those affected most by federal policy.
Florida Governor and Cabinet
Rick Scott is term-limited as governor and is rumored to be challenging Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018 for his Senate seat. Bondi and Putnam are possible candidates for governor.
Governor Rick Scott
Mail: Office of the Governor, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Attorney General Pam Bondi
Mail: The Capitol, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam
Mail: The Capitol, PL-10, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0800
Senate President Joe Negron
Mail: 404 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
Official email: go to flsenate.gov/offices/president and fill in form
Florida House of Representatives
Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O' Lakes)
Mail: 420 The Capitol, 402 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Official email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Orange County Supervisor of Elections website lets county residents look up every one of their government officials: ocfelections.com/voter_lookup/voterlookup.aspx
What to contact them about: Bills filed in the Florida Legislature, responses to Trump's executive orders and provocations, votes in their assigned committees, stopping the Obamacare repeal, all federal policy.
County Mayors and County Commissioners
Find yours at:
Orange County: orangecountyfl.net
Seminole County: seminolecountyfl.gov
Osceola County: osceola.org
What to contact them about: Issues within the county, including taxation, property rights and zoning, civil rights and equality issues, wages and labor issues, district-specific issues, advocating for county issues happening in state government, environmental concerns, seeking support on legislation, touring government facilities.
School Board Chair and Members
Find names at:
Orange County: ocps.net/sb
Seminole County: scps.k12.fl.us/district/school-board
Osceola County: osceolaschools.net/leadership/school_board
What to contact them about: Maintenance and replacement of school facilities, setting curriculum, school rule policies, budgeting, employment of superintendent, teachers union and collective bargaining agreements.
City Mayors and City Commissioners
Find yours at: myflorida.com/cities
What to contact them about: Issues within the city, including taxation, property rights and zoning, civil rights and equality issues, wages and labor issues.