This is a guest post written by blogger and Wellspring Living advocate, Emily Laney.
We have less than a month until Lobby Day! If you read my first post about getting started, then you know who your representatives are and what district you live in. That’s our big first step. If you didn’t read the first blog post, you can check it out here.
The next step in getting ready for Lobby day is to make that first introduction. You now know who your elected officials are, but unless you go to church with your reps, are their neighbor, or are already involved in the political process they probably don’t know who you are. And that’s okay! It’s very easy to get to know your elected officials, particularly on the local level. So, go to the Georgia State Legislature website. The Legislature website lists contact information for all elected officials. Find the phone number or email address, and contact them.
Some of you may be thinking. “What? Contact them? I’m not important, they’ll never talk to me!”
Actually, yes they will. Because you are a constituent. If you are registered to vote (and please do so if you are not prior to lobby day), and if you voted for your representatives, then you hired them. And if you didn’t vote for them, then they want you to vote for them to get rehired in a few years. So they will talk to you. They work for you, so they should talk to you.
When you write your email or make your phone call, be sure to mention your zip code and tell them that you are a voting constituent. You can call on your elected officials for a variety of things, but for purposes of this blog I’m going to assume you want to contact them to discuss human trafficking in Georgia. Tell them that you are a constituent and are concerned about human trafficking in Georgia. Explain that you support Wellspring Living and other organizations protecting vulnerable Georgians and that you want to know what they plan to do to ensure that people are not trafficked in our state. Ask them if they have time to discuss this with you, either over the phone or in person. And come prepared to that meeting with statistics, resources and information to share. Or come prepared with stories. Many of you reading this have stories of your interactions with the girls at Wellspring Living or other organizations. Your stories will touch the hearts of your elected officials as well.
I’ll give you a quick example to encourage you. I don’t want you to think I’m sharing information and not actually implementing my own advice. I found out this session that I have a new senator. I emailed him in mid December, asking him if I could talk to him about human trafficking in Georgia. He called me the next day, excited to talk to me. My husband and I arranged to meet him at a local Starbucks to discuss the issue. I pulled up a bunch of websites and stats on my iPad and we had a wonderful two-hour meeting. I followed up the meeting with a thank you email filled with links to the resources we discussed. He responded saying that he really enjoyed our meeting and is going to do his part to stay on top of the issue and to make sure that Georgia has strong laws to protect residents. I didn’t do this as a representative from a nonprofit, I did this as a concerned citizen who cares about her state and the women and children victimized here.
You don’t have to meet your representative for coffee; you can just give them a call or send them an email. But if you have time, many of them would be happy to meet with you. Most of their constituents do not take the time to reach out to them, and I have heard local elected officials say that it only takes three interactions from a constituent before they remember them by name. Imagine if we do our part, year after year, to reach out to the people making our state’s laws. If an army of freedom fighters stay on top of our elected officials, then I imagine human trafficking will stay on their radar.
I hope your emailing and phone calls go well! I’d love to hear any stories of your interaction with your elected officials. I will say that I’m not guaranteeing results like mine, but most of my interactions with policy makers have been very pleasant experiences, even if we ultimately did not agree on the issue. Be sure to follow-up any interaction with a thank you card, and remind your elected officials that you’ll be at Lobby Day in February and would love to meet with them again. And if they ask about upcoming legislation, tell them that you will be happy to share that information after the session begins and prior to Lobby Day. Make sure you are signed up for StreetGrace emails so you know the laws we will be lobbying for. Our next lobby day post will be about upcoming legislation we can all get behind.