By Ashley Morris, @mariecamino
Did you know that you have the power to impact our state laws and policies at every step of the process? As a Californian, you are represented in Sacramento by a state senator and state assemblymember.
These legislators work for you and your neighbors and are often eager to hear from you about how you feel about bills that they have proposed or will be voting on. They also turn to their constituents (that’s you!) and organizations like the ACLU for ideas about new bills that they should propose.
So how can you impact this process?
Vote. If you are eligible, register to vote and then get out and vote in every election. Learn about the candidates and ballot measures by reading your voter guide, researching endorsements by organizations you trust and attending public voter forums. Even if you aren’t eligible to vote, talk to your friends and family about important issues that impact your communities and make sure they vote if they are eligible. Get to know your representatives. In addition to an office in Sacramento, your senator and assemblymember have district offices located in the communities they serve. You can call the office and make an appointment to meet with the senator or assemblymember or a member of their staff to talk about issues that matter most to your community.
Sometimes, legislators host town hall meetings on specific topics or a monthly “coffee hour” to gather informally with constituents. The information legislators gather at these events could inspire new legislation. Information is usually available on your representative’s website or Twitter feed.
Lobby. Lobbying does not always mean meeting with your legislators in person in their Sacramento offices. There are many ways to make your voice heard on legislation that matters to you:
- Email: if you sign up to receive emails from organizations like the ACLU, you will periodically receive alerts to take action on important legislation. Usually, these organizations use sophisticated software that allows you to simply enter your address and click a button to send a message to your representatives voicing your opinion on a piece of legislation. Legislators keep track of how many of their constituents support or oppose the bills they are considering, and this can influence their ultimate vote.
- Phone: You can always call your representatives’ offices to let them know where you stand on a piece of legislation. These calls are even more impactful than emails. Go to your representative’s website to get their phone number.
- Meetup: In addition to meeting with your legislator to talk generally about what’s going on in your community, you can meet with the legislator or their staff in their district office to talk about a specific bill. And of course, you can also participate in organized lobby days in Sacramento, like the ACLU of California’s annual Conference & Lobby Day!
Ashley Morris is senior organizer at the ACLU of Northern California. Follow ACLU_SoCal on Twitter.