Tips to make the most of your day
Coming to General Assembly to encourage your legislator to support ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment might seem intimidating if you have not been part of such a visit before, but you’ll find that it’s a fun outing that is very manageable to organize.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Planning Your Visit
- Find your state senator and state delegate at at https://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/
- Contact the legislators’ offices to request appointments. Let them know who you are, that you are a constituent, and whether you are a member of/representing any organizations. Consider mentioning a local issue in addition to the ERA to engage their interest.
- Prepare to speak knowledgeably on the issue. It will help to have a short elevator pitch prepared to start the conversation with your legislator. You can get started with
- Learn about your legislator, including committee assignments, issues of interest, and background information. Learn as much as you can about their position on the Equal Rights Amendment and any comments they have made about it. Sources include:
- Virginia General Assembly – Members and Session page
- Virginia Public Access Project – House | Senate
- See our Priority Legislators page and summary of supporters from 2018 General Assembly session
- Legislators web page
- Search of news sources
- Plan your day – consider allowing time to participate in organized events, visit exhibits, and enjoy a meal nearby.
Plan Your Day
- Consider allowing time to participate in organized events, visit exhibits, and enjoy a meal nearby.
- Generally, mornings are busy with committee meetings. Legislators head to the Capitol Building around 11am for caucus sessions – you can catch a brief word with legislators on Bank Street as they head over. House and Senate typically start session around noon – afternoons can be a good time to meet with legislative aides. Following the end of daily floor sessions, which vary, committee and subcommittees resume meeting in the Capitol Building and the Pocahontas Building.
- Download the Logistics document here to help you plan!
Coordinate with the VA ratify ERA Statewide Campaign
- Let us know you are coming by completing the form here. We can help to coordinate and provide assistance on the ground during your visit to Richmond, including providing materials and access to subject matter experts.
- We will maintain office space throughout session in downtown Richmond across the street from the legislator’s offices (located in the Pocahontas Building):
10th Floor, #1012
919 E Main St, Richmond, VA 23219
- You can find names and contact information for the headquarters coordinators here. https://varatifyera.org/ga2019/citizen-advocates/
- Make sure to allow plenty of time for traffic and to find parking. See our parking tips here.
- Your experience will be more fun if you know where you’re going. Print a copy of our logistics PDF to bring with you and review in advance.
- We’ve prepared some information and activities to review and share in transit. Click here to download travel activities and resources!
During Your Appointment
- No more than four or five attendees should participate in each appointment, and it is important that at least one attendee be a constituent.
- Be confident – don’t be intimidated.
- Be brief – get to the point quickly and close strong (think of this like an “elevator speech” – get to the point before the doors open!). Hi, I’m a registered voter in ____. I’m here today to advocate for the ERA. I see where Del __ /Sen __ has not yet stated support for the legislation.
- Have FAQs document ready and don’t be afraid to refer to them.
- Sample flow of meeting
- Introduce yourself – mention any groups you’re a part of and personal details that might be relevant
- Start on a positive note – if there’s a position your legislator has taken that you support, mention that.
- Give your short elevator pitch – complete this early in case your meeting is cut short.
- If your legislator has made specific comments about ratification in the past, mention those. If those comments were not supportive, share information that rebutts those comments.
- We can provide a printed notebook with reference materials to bring to your meeting – visit our office to check it out.
- Frequently asked questions
- Share personal anecdotes to support your position – this issue affects you and people you know, and it’s important for your legislator to hear that.
- Let your legislator know this issue has broad support: it’s important for …..the students at …. the women in …… the members of …. etc. ….. we’ve been meeting with…. We are supported by _____
- Focus on just a few key issues to avoid overloading the legislator. Keep the conversation polite.
- Ask the legislator to clarify their position on the issue and to share any specific concerns. Ask questions, and make note of their responses. This feedback is helpful to share with the campaign.
- Show openness to the knowledge of counterarguments and response politely, but do not argue with the legislator or staff.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so, but offer to get an answer. Note this for follow up for the VAratifyERA campaign.
- Close strong. Ask the legislator to support HJ579 and Senate Bill and thank them for their time.
- Leave behind a concise, one page or less document with the bill number, reasons to support, groups and organizations who support the bill and why.
After Your Visit
- Make sure to send a personal thank you note to each elected official or staff member visited.
- If you talk to a legislator (or their staff) who is not publicly supporting ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, it is helpful to share information about your conversation with the statewide VAratifyERA campaign, email that to us here.
- Share your experience on social media
- Plan your next steps – stay up to date by following our Facebook group and signing up for email updates.