How do Representatives Help Constituents?

Mary McMahon

Many people are not aware that when they participate in elections to nominate and elect representatives, these representatives do a lot more than just passing laws in a distant capital. In fact, representatives help constituents in a number of ways; your representative can help you negotiate the complicated process of applying for a passport, for example, or he or she can act as an advocate to help you get benefits from the Veteran's Administration. For many representatives, the ability to help constituents is a very important part of running for and serving in office.

The House and Senate convene in the U.S. Capital building.
The House and Senate convene in the U.S. Capital building.

Lawmaking is certainly an important part of being a representative in Senate or Congress, at the State or National level. Representatives help constituents by passing laws which they think will be beneficial, and by advocating for their constituents in the legislature. For example, a Senator from a region which experiences a national disaster may push through an appropriations bill to get financial help for his or her constituents, ensuring that they have access to the services and help that they need.

Representatives help constituents with completing a passport application.
Representatives help constituents with completing a passport application.

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In addition to helping their constituents as a collective, representatives are also obligated to help individuals. People can approach their representatives for help with the immigration and naturalization process, visas, assistance in dealing with federal agencies ranging from the Internal Revenue Service to the Department of Natural resources, and for information. Representatives help constituents who are entitled to benefits as veterans, retirees, or victims of natural disasters, for example, by using their contacts and knowledge of the system to get quick results.

Many representatives help constituents with local projects, when they know about them. Some are happy to travel to schools to speak to students about being lawmakers, for example, while others delight in the public relations opportunity presented by being asked to speak at a grand opening of a regional museum, park, or downtown business district. Representatives can also sometimes help with local issues, working with regional government to reach solutions to problems which constituents have trouble working out on their own.

Even when a representative cannot directly help a constituent, his or her staff can usually point people in the right direction for help. If you're having trouble with something, it may be worth contacting your representative to get assistance or a referral for help. Many representatives have regional offices staffed by knowledgeable, helpful people who enjoy helping constituents and passing information and concerns on to the representatives they work for. Representatives help constituents with a variety of issues every day; you might as well take advantage of a service your tax dollars pay for.

Representatives can also help constituents with their visa.
Representatives can also help constituents with their visa.

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Discussion Comments


How could the representatives prevent a law from being passed?


For practical purposes, when would one write a Senator instead of a Representative and vice versa?

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