Coordinating Visits to Your Legislator’s Offices
Why In-Person Visits?
- Engaging your representatives through in-person visits is an essential part of delivering a consistent message of support or resistance on issues that are important to you. Face to face meetings require more effort, but they better demonstrate the serious impacts that policy decisions have on constituents and thereby influence the policy agenda.
- Local offices are open for anyone to visit. You can take advantage of this by calling your representative’s office and requesting a meeting.
Schedule Your Office Visit
- Find out who your representatives are and where their offices are located.
- Click here to find the name and contact information for your legislators and check their official webpage.
- Call the district office and ask to speak with a scheduler. It might take multiple tries to get through to a scheduler, so it’s important that you be patient and persistent. Once you reach the scheduler, ask to set up a meeting with your legislator in his/her home district.
- Be sure to ask for the name of your legislator’s scheduler and their email address. Don’t forget to write this information down so you can reference it later.
- Make sure to let the scheduler know that you are a constituent.
- Try your best to not leave the phone call without having a meeting scheduled, even if the meeting is scheduled for several weeks away. Be prepared to schedule your meeting up to 3-4 weeks in advance.
- Have multiple options for dates to meet with your legislator ready. Thursdays and Fridays are typically the best times for representatives to be at their local offices.
- Your legislator’s office may request that you fill out a form before they will schedule a meeting with you. Make sure to fill out the form completely and send it back to their office as quickly as you can.
- You may be asked about what you want to discuss at the meeting. You can say “making our elections work better”, “election reform” or “fair and efficient elections”.
- For group visits, don’t worry if you don’t know the names of the people who will accompany you to the meeting. You can say that you would like a meeting for 3-5 constituents who are also members of Common Cause New York and that you’ll provide all of their names before the meeting.
- If the legislator isn’t available, ask to meet with a staffer. The best person to meet with is the Chief of Staff or the Legislative Director, so be sure to ask if they are available
Once you have set up a meeting, make sure to contact Common Cause New York and let us know the details. We are here to help you make sure this visit is a success.
Prepare for Your Visit
- Plan to dedicate at least two hours to your meeting. If you are planning a group visit, decide on one person who will lead the discussion, and one person who will take notes and keep track of the items on your agenda.
- Make sure that you have a clear idea of what you are going to say. Typically meetings are no more than 30 minutes, but you may only get just a few minutes to present your points in a clear and concise way. Practice summarizing your points in 5 minutes.
- Prepare several questions about election reform ahead of time and have one request of the legislator prepared. Make sure that you know what you want them to commit to.
- Below are some sample talking points. Personal stories about issues you’ve experienced that tie into your life or the lives of people in your community will leave a strong, lasting impression. Remember to stay on topic and keep the conversation to the point.
- Our elections should be fair, accessible, and efficient so that all New Yorkers have equal access to the polls, but voting in New York is very restrictive.
- Many other states have early voting because voters who are elderly, disabled, in school, working, or taking care of their families deserve a chance to vote when it’s convenient for them.
- This is the perfect place for a personal story about a family member or friend who almost couldn’t make it to the polls – or actually missed voting entirely because of an unexpected time crunch.
- For voters who become engaged toward the end of the election cycle, it’s usually too late for them to even register to vote. Some states have shorter registration deadlines to get more eligible voters involved in the process.
- Another good place for personal stories
- Automatically registering voters would eliminate the confusing and slow registration process.
- It would also relieve administrative burdens by saving time and paperwork.
- Processing voter information with paper based poll books wastes a lot of money that could be spent elsewhere. Paper poll books also create long lines and longer wait times that make it more difficult for people to vote.
- Can you commit to making sure that voting is fair and more accessible for all New Yorkers by supporting early voting? Automatic voter registration? Electronic poll books?
- Recruit 3-5 community members, leaders, friends and allies to join you in the meeting. Common Cause New York can help you recruit fellow Common Cause members in your area and with recruiting ideas.
- Remain respectful even if you deeply disagree with your legislator or his/her staff. Remember that the purpose of your meeting is to listen and to present a strong argument that outlines your key points about why election reform is important to you.
- If you are meeting with a Democratic legislator or his or her staff, talking about equal access to the ballot box for all New Yorkers is very powerful.
- If you are meeting with a Republican legislator or his or her staff, be sure to emphasize the orderly and economical conduct of our elections, to insure security and verifiability.
After Your Visit
- After the meeting, debrief with your group to discuss how you think the meeting went and what can be done in the future.
- Be sure to document any commitments made during the conversation.
- Assign follow-up activities like sending a thank you letter, posting about the meeting on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and providing answers to any questions your group was asked. You can also take a picture and send it to Common Cause New York so we can feature it on social media and encourage other members to visit their legislators too.
- Contact Common Cause New York and tell us how it went. We’re happy to help you write a thank you to your representative for meeting with you.
- If you have any questions or need any help along the way do not hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help you get your voices are heard.