MAKING AN OFFICE VISIT
Every Member of Congress (MoC) and state legislator has a district office; city council members and school board members may maintain office hours as well. District offices are public spaces – you’re not supposed to need an appointment to show up. Here are some ways to get the most impact out of a visit to an elected official:
- Find out where you’re going. We've made it easy for you to find the office addresses of the Conejo Valley’s federal and state legislators.
- Plan a visit when the official is there. Members of Congress often are in their home districts on Mondays and Fridays; additionally, there are weeklong in-district Work Periods throughout the year (check Indivisible: Conejo’s Events Calendar for the next one).
- Bring friends! Showing up with a small group will make it much more difficult for a legislator or staffers to turn you away, even if you don’t have an appointment.
- Prepare several questions ahead of time. Make sure they’re well thought-out, and include references to the official’s past votes or statements.
- Politely, but firmly, ask to speak with the legislator directly. Staff may ask you to leave, or may offer to write down your concerns. Don’t settle for that, unless you must. You want to speak directly to the legislator! If she/he isn’t in, ask when she’ll be back. If the staffers don’t know, tell them you’ll wait, and sit politely in the lobby. Make sure to remain pleasant and respectful throughout your visit!
- When you must meet with a staffer… Even if you manage to score some one-on-one time with your legislator, you may wind up having a more substantive conversation with a staff member afterward. Building a relationship with staffers is beneficial; often they’re more sympathetic to your causes than the legislator is able to be, and building a rapport can help get your message sent up the chain. Good ideas for conversations with staff include:
- Have a specific ask (vote for/against or co-sponsor a particular bill; publicly support/oppose a particular policy or person).
- Leave behind a brief, written message about your issue.
- Share a personal story about your experience with the issue.
- Be polite – yelling at an overworked, underpaid staffer won’t help your cause.
- Be pe rsistent! Get a business card, and follow up. Build a relationship!
- Document your visit. Take pictures and video with your group, and let us know whether the meeting’s outcome is positive or negative so that Indivisible: Conejo can share it on social media and the local papers. “Here’s our group with Rep. Smith after a productive meeting” is great; so, in a different way, is “Sen. Jones’ staff turned 10 of his constituents away when we asked to discuss the ACA. They kept us waiting for half an hour, and wouldn’t tell us where he is.”