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Grassroots lobbying • Meeting with legislatorsUsing social media

Grassroots lobbying

What is the Definition of Grassroots Lobbying?

In the news, we hear about professional lobbyists who attempt to influence legislation and policy through various means. Grassroots lobbying is when everyday citizens contact their own legislators to try to influence legislation and policy. Advocacy groups of all kinds engage in grassroots lobbying, asking their members to call and write their legislators about a piece of legislation. Most people will never contact their legislators, but anyone can send an email or pick up the phone and ask their senator or delegate to support or oppose a pending bill or policy.

Why Should I Contact My Legislators?

It’s important to let your legislators know where you stand, because the number of emails/calls on each side of an issue will be an important indication of where people stand and frequently influence how a legislator will vote on a bill. Grassroots lobbying is very effective because the legislators are hearing directly from their constituency, who will be voting the next time they are up for re-election.

How Do I Contact Legislators?

It used to be that a hand-written letter was best, because it showed that the person cared enough to sit down and write a letter. However, now offices prefer emails and phone calls, especially when the Virginia General Assembly is in session because things move very quickly. Sometimes you will have less than 24 hours’ notice before an important vote!

If you are planning to visit Richmond during session in January and February, you can contact your legislator’s office and ask for an appointment. They will ask which issue you would like to discuss, and chances are, you will meet with a legislative assistant, and not with the legislator directly. During the remainder of the year, mid-March through December, you can schedule a meeting with your legislator in their local district office. Remember, they are there to serve you, the constituent.

Locate your legislator’s information here: http://lis.virginia.gov/201/mbr/MBR.HTM

If you need help determining who your legislators are please visit: https://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/

What Do I Say to Legislators?
When you send an email, be sure to provide your contact information, including your street address, so that they can respond to you and they will know that you are constituent. State your position clearly and politely – do you want the legislator to support the bill/policy, or oppose it? Try to keep the message short. Briefly state in a paragraph or two why you support or oppose the bill. Write a separate message for each bill/policy.

If you call their offices, they will usually take a short message and may ask for your contact information. They usually will not need or want to hear an explanation. If you’d like to submit more information, it’s better to send an email, or a hard copy.

Virginia groups such as the Virginia Catholic Conference, Virginia Society for Human Life, and the Family Foundation can also provide you with resources such as your legislator’s voting history, as well as handouts/talking points on key bills and policies that impact the unborn. You should also consider joining their advocacy networks which will keep you up to date on bills and other policy issues facing the Commonwealth during the legislative session and throughout the year, as well as provide you with opportunities to act on important legislation.

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