How to be heard by your elected officials
It's a new year, and soon a new slate of elected officials will be sworn into our state and federal governments.
If you want elected leaders to hear your opinion, you first need to make sure you are sending your message to the right people.
To find how to contact your elected federal representatives in Washington, D.C., your state representative and senator, and the elected statewide officials, you can go to the Illinois State Board of Elections website at elections.il.gov, click on the link for the "district/official" search engine and type in your address.
The rebootillinois.com website of the nonpartisan organization that urges citizens to be involved features a soundoff.rebootillinois.com link that automatically will send emails on a variety of issues to your local representatives, as well as to the majority leaders in the Illinois House and Senate.
"That's important, because in Illinois, it's usually those majority legislative leaders who control the agenda," says Madeleine Doubek, chief operating officer of Reboot Illinois and former executive editor of the Daily Herald. While the Reboot Illinois site includes prewritten emails in support of that agency's positions, "you can click inside that box and write whatever you want," Doubek says. You also can use Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to let others know that you sent your opinion to elected officials.
"The idea here is to leverage the power of social media," Doubek says.
Whatever your position on an issue, you need to follow a few simple rules.
"It's important to let them know you are a voting constituent," Doubek says.
When raising an issue or voicing an opinion, you should be ready to provide your full name, your address and a phone number or email address. If you are addressing a particular piece of legislation, it helps to have a bill number. If you send an email, letter or leave a voice mail, be concise and to the point, and make sure to provide a way for the legislator to get back in touch with you.
"Get right to the point. Tell them what you're writing about and why," Doubek says.
You don't need a smartphone or computer to be heard.
"Phone calls and handwritten letters still have a great deal of value," says Doubek, adding that the message is more important than the medium. "It's important to convey how meaningful the issue is to you."
The important thing is to make your opinion known to people who can do something about it. "I believe passionately that more of us in Illinois should be communicating more often with our elected officials," Doubek says, "because they are supposed to be working for us."