Albion Monitor /News

E-mail Effective Way to Reach Elected Officals

by Jeff Elliott

Do your elected representatives read e-mail from voters? And does an electronic message carry the same importance as a telephone call or hand-written letter? The answer is yes, according to an Albion Monitor survey performed earlier this month.

State Assemblyman Dan Hauser responded to our questionnaire personally, and within 24 hours. "E-Mail carries the same or more weight than a phone call," Hauser writes.

All others who responded said that e-mail is treated with the same consideration as any other form of communication. "Phone calls, faxes, e-mail, are all weighted the same," says Bret Goble, a spokesperson for Representative Frank Riggs. "We're just happy to hear from people."

As sometimes happens, e-mail glitches were found

In most offices, copies of the entire e-mail message are also distributed to aides who track particular issues. "Legislative aides receive constituent messages after they are reviewed by [State Senator Mike] Thompson," says Thompson assistant Naomi Morse. "This office does not print out summaries."

Except for Hauser's office, e-mail is read first by aides. Staff members for State Assemblywoman Valerie Brown and Thompson said that their leaders see every e-mail message received. Representatives Lynn Woolsey and Riggs read only a periodic summary of all communications, as does Senator Barbara Boxer.

Like Hauser, Brown tries to answer e-mail personally. Staff members of other officials asked for a street address where a response could be sent by regular mail.

The most Internet-savvy office appeared to be Boxer's. Her staff member responded the fastest, with answers to our survey within three hours. Senator Boxer is also contacted the most, with about 100 messages per day.

As sometimes happens, e-mail glitches were found. Representative Woolsey's press secretary said all correspondents receive an automated response that their message arrived safely. Not so; there was no response to either of two messages sent to her office. And first attempts to contact Valerie Brown failed because her e-mail address was incorrectly listed on the official State Assembly web pages.

E-mail your elected officials

Northern California is fortunate; roughly 70 percent of all state and federal officials do not have e-mail at all. All of our representatives read e-mail from voters, and treat it with the same courtesy as any correspondence.

The exception appears to be the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein, which did not respond to our survey, despite two e-mail messages and a telephone call.

To make your message more effective, your elected officials make these recommendations:

  • Identify yourself as a constituent. "If the address is outside the 1st Assembly District, I simply delete," wrote Hauser.

  • Enclose a street address and telephone number; do not expect a response via e-mail.

  • Clearly identify your position on the issue.

    To make it easier to contact your elected officials, the Albion Monitor has introduced a special resource web page (, where you can e-mail them by simply clicking on their name.

  • Albion Monitor February 18, 1996 (

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