Democracy needs input from citizens to thrive, but figuring out how to share your voice and have an impact on government can be challenging.

Whether you are interested in federal, state, or local policy, you can interact directly with elected officials by writing, calling, or visiting your representatives. While testifying in person is the most effective way, we understand not everyone is comfortable in that setting. Other options include writing letters to the editor or sharing information on social media.

Traveling to the Capitol or to a representative’s office can be difficult for rural residents, and the pandemic has created additional barriers. The good news is that most advocacy can take place remotely.

However you choose to engage, provide an authentic constituent voice while making sure to keep your message simple, civil, and focused. The audience needs to know who you are, why the issue matters to you, and what action you want taken. In the case of legislation, this means urging the representative to vote yes or no on a specific proposal.

Whatever your medium, stay focused on the topic at hand. Any policy proposal has important history and context, but limited time and space means you can only go into so much detail or risk missing your main point.

Commenting on an issue should also be timely. Try to speak to representatives or place your story in the media at a key moment, such as before a hearing or floor debate.

The Center for Rural Affairs can help you keep track of rural issues that are important to you, find opportunities for you to advocate, and craft your message. If you haven’t already, visit cfra.org to take a look at our current legislative priorities and keep track of our legislative updates to know what proposals are affecting rural areas.

By Trenton Buhr, policy associate, Center for Rural Affairs