Advocacy Toolkit

Our Voice Counts: A Guide to Contacting Your Legislator

As constituents, we must play our role in the government by staying educated and advocating for our rights. This page serves as a tool-kit that anyone can use to contact their legislators. Here, you can learn more about the importance of contacting our legislators; who represents you in Congress; and the various methods you can use to contact your legislators.

* Advocacy is anything we do to influence public policies.

Why should I contact my legislator?

Our voice counts. As constituents, we have the opportunity to be a part of the law-making process and it is our representatives’ job to listen to us and speak on our behalf. Legislators want to hear about issues that are of importance to you. Remember that it is our right to voice our opinions. You do not need to be a citizen to contact your legislator. As long as you are their constituent – meaning that you live in the congressional district they represent – you have the right to contact your representatives and advocate for yourself, your family and your community.

* A constituent is someone who lives in a particular congressional district.
* A voter is a citizen who is registered to vote for elected officials.

Who should I contact?

For issues concerning Ohio, contact your State Legislators. For issues concerning the entire country, contact your U.S. Legislators. Example: Immigration issues such as the DREAM act = U.S. Representative or U.S. Senators; Funding for libraries and schools = OH Representatives and OH Senators.

What should we advocate for?

We advocate for things that matter – including pending bills, vital government-funded programs, an issue of concern in your community, or anything involving a change in public policies.

How do I contact my legislator? 

Use your zipcode to find your legislators here! You can contact your legislator in a variety of ways. Click on the following links for directions:

Click here to see a presentation about drafting effective public policy.

501(c)(3) non-profit organizations can advocate for their communities!  Like private citizens, they are allowed to contact their legislators about pending bills, vital government-funded programs, changes in public policies, or any other issue of concern.  The only thing 501(c)(3) non-profits cannot do is support or oppose a candidate for public office.

  • Click here to learn about ‘lobbying’, a special sort of advocacy which both private citizens and 501(c)(3) non-profits can use.
  • Click here to download IRS Form 5768 to elect the 501(h) expenditure test, which makes it safer and easier for 501(c)(3) non-profits to lobby.
  • Click here to see a presentation on lobbying rules in an election year for 501(c)(3) nonprofits (loads slowly, but worth your patience!).
  • Click here and here to see short examples of what 501(c)(3) non-profits can and cannot do during an election year.

Help Asian Americans Protect Their Voting Rights
A Guide to Ensure Language Assistance During Elections

This handbook for advocates from the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice explains:

  • What is Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act?
  • What communities can receive bilingual voting assistance under Section 203
  • What you can do to ensure that bilingual voting assistance is properly enforced
  • How you can still advocate for communities not covered by Section 203

Voices of Democracy: Asian Americans and Language Access During the 2012 Elections
(August, 2013; Asian Americans Advancing Justice)
This report examines in detail the level of compliance of 14 jurisdictions where Advancing Justice and local partners conducted poll monitoring during the 2012 elections, and reveals that language assistance continues to be a key issue for Asian American voters. Currently 22 jurisdictions are required under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act to provide assistance in one or more Asian languages.

Section 203 Language Factsheets
These factsheets provide voters with in-languageinformation about which jurisdictions provide language assistance in that particular language, what type of assistance is to be expected, and how to find more information. These factsheets have been translated into each Section 203-covered language and can be downloaded:

  • Bengali
  • Chinese
  • Hindi
  • Japanese
  • Khmer
  • Korean
  • Tagalog
  • Thai
  • Vietnamese

Section 208 Factsheets
Section 208 gives voters the right to bring someone of their choice into the polling booth to assist due to blindness, disability, or inability to read or write English. This is the right of every voter, no matter what state or jurisdiction they are voting in.Unfortunately, many people are not aware of Section 208, and often poll workers incorrectly refuse to let voters use a helper of their choice. The factsheet explains this provision in the following languages:

  • Chinese – Simplified
  • Chinese – Traditional
  • Hindi
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Tagalog
  • Vietnamese
  • Gujarati
  • Bengali
  • Hmong
  • Urdu
  • Laotian

Brief overview of the U.S. Government 

It’s easy to get lost in all the political jargon that comes with advocacy. Usually, the best step before advocating is getting educated. Provided is a brief overview of the U.S. government and a link to learn more about the law-making process. It’ll make things much less confusing!

There are several levels of government: local, state, and federal. Each level of government has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative branch, which is where laws are made, has two houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Each of the 50 states is given two Senators, but the number of Representatives depends on the population of the state.

Similarly, each state has its own House of Representatives and Senators. Each district within the state is represented by two Senators and a varying number of representatives depending on the district’s population.

Learn more about the step-by-step process of law-making here: How are laws made?

Your legislators propose and create laws, but they’re also meant to represent you! As members of our communities,  we know best of what our community needs and what issues affect us the most. Therefore, it is vital that we verbalize our concerns to our legislators to ensure the betterment of our communities. Remember, our voice counts!

Leave a Reply