* Skip ahead to the four easy steps if you already believe in the impact of the citizen voice. Otherwise, read on if you aren’t convinced of the importance of contacting your congressional representatives.

The First Amendment of the Constitution emphatically asserts:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to the Government for a redress of grievances.” 

It is our constitutional right to exercise our voice and “harness voting power in ways that effect change,” but, sadly, many of us do not. Constituent apathy and a lack of education are the most likely culprits. A 2013 Gallup survey found that 65% of respondents can’t identify their congressional representative. How can we write to them if we cannot identify them? Worse yet, only 20% of Americans approve of Congress today. Why do we continue to be complacent in congressional ineptitude? When will enough be enough?

Staying silent on important issues will not fix our broken system. Critical policy issues will only improve if we get involved and hold our politicians accountable. It is our civic duty to ensure politicians understand the enormity of the responsibility of their elected representation, especially if they have any hope of being re-elected. Assert your right to demand the government do what it’s constitutionally obligated to do, and write to your representative. Don’t believe your voice matters?

Research says otherwise. A field experiment in Michigan conducted by Daniel Bergan and Richard Cole asserts that public opinion on certain legislation increases the likelihood of a representative supporting said legislation by twelve percentage points. Results from a randomized field experiment conducted by Daniel Butler and David Nickerson suggest that legislators want to be “more responsive to public opinion than they are in their natural state and can be if given solid information about constituent beliefs.” Even though these experiments sampled a smaller population, they indicate voter opinions can and do influence policymaking. When we fail to voice our opinions to our elected officials we get locked “out of the policymaking process.”

Now more than ever, we need to be locked-in to the policy making process. This is especially true of criminal justice policy. The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but holds 25% of the prison population. This has dramatic consequences for our society. As Politico notes,

“Those in jail are not working and paying taxes on their income. Upon release from jail, people who have been incarcerated are less likely to find employment, which means they’re more likely to rely on federal benefit programs.

Further on Politico remarks that the "impacts extend even to the next generation. The Congressional Budget Office notes young men who are jobless or incarcerated today are less likely to marry, less likely to stay married, and less likely to have children who live in two-parent households than their counterparts who are employed or in school. Because the earnings of the next generation are likely to be affected by the families in which they grow up, adverse consequences for today’s families can have long-run economic impacts.”

Any criminal conviction carries these dire consequences, but a sex offender conviction intensifies these issues as their criminal sexual history is easily and publicly accessible. Few employers will hire them, landlords loathe to rent to them, and society largely views them as pariahs. Dig through sexlawandpolicy.org and you’ll understand the enormity of the problem. Before you scoff that representatives won’t hear your support for reforming sex offender registration and notification (SORN) policies, as they’re commonly seen as political suicide, hear us out.

Many congressional representatives do care and will listen to empirically-supported evidence. Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia’s 3rd District, spoke out against the passage of International Megan’s Law earlier this year. Paul Heroux, a Democrat from the 2nd Bristol District of Massachusetts, routinely opines on the failure of sex offender policy. Mary Gonzalez, a Democrat from District 75 in Texas, has fought for equal protections for queer teens facing prosecution under Romeo and Juliet statutes. Here at the Sex Law and Policy Center, we firmly believe that congressional representatives will listen to sound evidence if we inundate them with our collective voice. If they don’t, they may be in for a surprise during re-election.

Hopefully, after all this, you’re still with us because we are about to deliver on our promise of providing you with the easy steps to quickly contacting your representative. We will make this easy on you and provide you with all the necessary information. No stress. No hassles. No worries.

    1. Click here for a wonderful site that locates your congressional representatives at the press of a button. This guide is tailored specifically for emailing your congressional representatives through this site.

    2. Enter your street address. Note, you don’t always have to write your own representatives. There may be times where it’s worth writing a congressional representative from another district or state.

    3. Choose the representative you wish to message. You can choose all or any number of representatives. The choice is yours, as it should be.

    4. This particular site asks for a Subject. We suggest you write “RE: [Name of Bill You Are Writing About].” For example, if you were to write a letter protesting International Megan’s Law; you could write this in the Subject box: RE: HR 515, International Megan’s Law

    5. Write your message. Included below is a handy little template letter to send to your representative(s). You’ll have to customize it for your specific issue, but that is not terribly difficult. We’ll cover some customization options in the template.

Whew, that’s it! We knew you could do it. Easy peasy, melon squeezy. How do you feel? Hopefully, you feel vindicated and accomplished. You fulfilled a constitutional right. It’s a big deal!

Not feeling satisfied? There are additional steps you can take to help you engage with your congressional representatives. We at the Sex Law and Policy Center suggest building a rapport with your congressional representatives. Your first letter is the first step. You can also ask them questions, arrange an in-person visits when possible, or send in additional letters. It is important for your congressional representative to have insight into their constituent’s interests, as these interests are a vehicle for change. Speaking of interests, this link will direct you to a list of every bill introduced in the House along with its current status. You may find that your bill has not passed the House, giving you time to write your House Representative. If your bill has passed the House, you can write to your state Senators. It’s a good site to keep abreast of pending legislation.

If you have made it this far in the guide, thank you for sticking with us. Contacting your representative is an important first step in ensuring your voice is heard. A movement begins with a single voice. You can join us in this movement by following our work. Subscribe today! Hopefully, we will see you around!

Now we get to the good part! Below you will find a link to a template to use when emailing your congressional representatives. It is impossible to provide a generalized letter that would match your issues/concerns perfectly. Be sure to tailor it for each representative and issue. The left-hand column is the guide to formatting and the right hand is the template to personalize for each representative and issue: