Building Relationships With State Legislators

As citizens and voters it's our job to hold our elected officials accountable. To be accountable, they must understand how we feel about the issues that affect our lives and that we care about deeply. By getting involved in the political process, we can work to ensure accountability. It begins right at home, by knowing your state senator and representative.

One important way to begin building relationships and influence policy out comes is to meet in person with your local legislators. Establishing this relationship early will pay off when key votes come up during the session. Laying the groundwork can begin with a simple meeting. The following steps show how to set up, prepare for, and follow up on a meeting with your state representative or senator.

  1. Logistics
  2. Set Up
  3. Prepare
  4. At The Meeting
  5. Get A Commitment
  6. Follow Up
Remember, legislators are much more likely to pay attention to the comments and opinions of a person they know and respect than a faceless constituent. Get to know your legislators!
  1. Logistics
    Meeting with a legislator usually works well with 2 - 5 people focusing on a specific issue or bill. Decide in advance who you want to attend (you, your spouse, neighbor, co-worker, etc.). The location should be where you and your legislator are comfortable, such as your home, his/her office, a coffee shop or restaurant or the public library. During the session, the meeting may take place at the Capitol building if you are planning to be in Des Moines. Legislators are usually at home in the district on weekends during the session, and are available for meetings there as well.

    Back to Steps

  2. Set Up
    You may wish to send a letter to your legislator in advance requesting the meeting and follow-up with a phone call. Don't be afraid to call your legislator directly (at home is fine) to set up a meeting. Tell him/her the issue you would like to discuss, who you would like to attend and set up a mutually agreeable time and place.

    Back to Steps

  3. Prepare
    Plan how the meeting will run and who will speak from your group. Agree among yourselves what you would like to ask the legislator and what action you want him/her to take. Some one from your group should be designated in advance to facilitate the meeting.

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  4. At The Meeting
    The facilitator should begin the discussion by allowing everyone in the group to introduce themselves. Use the introductions to legitimize your group (e.g., "I am an ICAN member, one of 27,000 in Iowa"; "I worked on your campaign"; "I'm a union member").

    You should ask specific questions and allow the legislator to respond. Make sure you explain your position clearly and succinctly. Be ready to defend your position with facts and information. Show the legislator how a particular bill would affect his/her district.

    It is impossible for a legislator to know every detail of every issue. Make sure you are prepared to explain the issue or bill in case he/she does not know a lot about it. You may choose to bring some written information about the issue or bill.

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  5. Get A Commitment
    Make sure that you are able to leave the meeting knowing where the legislator stands on the bill or issue and what he/she has agreed to do. Repeat your understanding at the end of the meeting and get agreement:

    "We understand that you will be voting yes on House File 000."

    Write down what he/she agreed to do - you may want it later.

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  6. Follow Up
    Follow up with a letter to the legislator, repeating the details of the meeting and any outcomes or agreements made. If you agreed to send any further information, include it with your letter. Don't forget to thank him/her for meeting with you.

    From the base of having met face-to-face, work to keep the lines of communication open. Call or write your legislators to get updates on your issues or bills and restate your position. When the legislators are in town and hold a forum, go and ask questions. If you are at the Capitol for any reason, make sure you stop in and say hello to your senator and representative. Be ready to set up subsequent meetings as new issues arise or as key votes approach.

    Back to Steps

Remember, legislators are much more likely to pay attention to the comments and opinions of a person they know and respect than a faceless constituent. Get to know your legislators!

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Find Your Legislative Districts

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How to Lobby

US CapitolAs citizens and voters it's our job to hold our elected officials accountable. To be accountable, they must understand how we feel about the issues that affect our lives and that we care about deeply. By getting involved in the political process, we can work to ensure accountability. ICAN provides the following Lobbying Tools so that ordinary citizens can get active and build accountability from the grassroots up.

Register To Vote

Register to Vote

All Iowa phonebooks contain a voter registration form or you can get one at many state offices.

To register in person, visit your county auditor's office.

You may fill out online, then print and mail, this registration form on the Iowa Secretary of State's website. Completed voter registration forms should be returned to the county auditor's office in the county where you live.