Every year, registered voters* cast ballots to select people to represent us in our government. Those who are elected are called “elected officials.”
Depending on the year, voters may be voting for local officials (selectmen, councilors, mayors, board of education members. etc.), state officials (state representatives, state senators, the governor, etc.), or federal officials (congresspeople, the president, etc.). Elected officials are responsible for acting on behalf of their constituents and making decisions based on what their constituents want to see changed. We can tell our elected officials what issues we care about by writing them letters.
*Do you know the requirements to be able to vote in the United States? You must be a citizen, 18 years old, and a resident of the state in which you will vote.
What are constituents? Am I a constituent?
Constituents are the people that an elected official represents. For example, the Governor’s constituents are the people of Connecticut… and the Kid Governor’s constituents are the kids of Connecticut! An elected official represents all people, even those who are not registered to vote and those who may not be old enough to vote. This includes kids like you.
Who are my elected officials?
There are a few websites that will help you find the elected officials who represent you:
- The State of Connecticut Cities and Towns database will help you find your town’s website. On your town’s website you will find the names of your local elected officials and their contact information.
- The Connecticut Network (CT-N) Legislative Communications Center will help you find your state representatives and state senator and their contact information based on where you live. You can also find information for statewide officials like the governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state.
- The website GovTrack will help you find your United States representative and senators and their contact information based on where you live.
How can we tell our elected officials what we want them to do and change?
Elected officials rely on us, their constituents, to tell them how they should vote and what issues they should work on during their term in office. One of the best ways to tell an elected official what community issue you care about is to write them a letter!
Here is a sample letter that will help you write your own letter to an elected official. You can fill in the blanks where you see words in [brackets]:
Dear [Mayor/Representative/Senator/Governor] [NAME],
My name is [NAME] and I am a 5th grader at [SCHOOL] in [TOWN]. I live at [ADDRESS] in [TOWN]. I am writing you today because I am concerned about [ISSUE]. This is an issue that affects me, my family, and my community because [HOW IT AFFECTS YOU]. I believe that this issue is important because [WHY IT IS IMPORTANT]. I hope that you can help me find a solution to this problem in our community, and I hope that you will consider bringing this issue to our [TOWN COUNCIL/STATE LEGISLATURE/ CONGRESS].
Thank you very much for you attention to this issue. With your help, I believe we can find a solution.
For example, if you name is Jane Smith, you go to John F. Kennedy School in Milford, and you want to stop animal cruelty, you letter might look like this:
My name is Jane Smith and I am a 5th grader at John F. Kennedy School in Milford. I live at 123 Nutmeg Street in Milford. I am writing to you today because I am concerned about animal cruelty. This is an issue that affects me, my family, and my community because my family, friends, and neighbors all have pets, and I believe our pets should be protected from abuse. I believe that this issue is important because there were over 3,500 cases of animal abuse in Connecticut between 2006 and 2016, and less than half of these cases were prosecuted. I hope that you can help me find a solution to this problem in our community, and I hope that you will consider bringing this issue to our state legislature.
Check out these other CT-N “Civics Toolbox” resources about contacting your elected officials:
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Legislative Letter Writing
- Addressing State Political Leaders in Correspondence
- Legislative Writing Exercise
What are YOU doing to make a difference?
We want to know! Email 2018 Connecticut’s Kid Governor Megan Kasperowski at CTKGMegan@KidGovernor.org to let her know what issue you care about and what you’re doing to make a difference. Perhaps you will get a shout out in her Stronger Than Cancer blog!