Government Address Question

I want to send a letter to the governor. I went to the official government website and saw the following…

State Capitol, Room 204 PO Box 200801 Helena, MT 59620-0801

There’s both a physical address “State Capitol, Room 204” and a PO Box listed. Can I use either? Do I have to use both? I’ve never seen this before and it’s unnecessarily confusing. I need to write the governor about this (infinite loop).

Which website did you look at? I went to this one, which lists only the PO box.

(I would like to add, though, that with a building as prominent as a capitol, I suppose simply addressing it to “State Capitol, Helena, Montana” would probably also get it delivered.)

This website…

Considering how much mail he must get I don’t want to give someone an excuse for tossing mine because I didn’t use the correct address.

AIUI, addressees that have a PO box prefer getting mail there (that’s why you set up a PO box, after all); they still need a street address for non-USPS services, which would not (be allowed to) deliver to a PO box.

Several levels here.

First, the USPS. The PO Box is theirs, on their property. Any material with a PO Box number will go from the central sorting building to whatever local facility has the PO Box. (In the capital, those might be the same.) Entities with giant amounts of mail don’t have a physical box - it might be a bin or series of them - but all PO numbers have the same result of being sorted out of the mail stream at the local post office. As Schnitte said, non-USPS carriers normally cannot deliver to a PO Box and so need a local street address to make direct deliveries. The street address is irrelevant for letters sent through the mail with a PO Box.

Second, the State Capitol. There will be a mail room in the Capitol building (unless they moved it elsewhere because of an anthrax scare or similar). The mail room personnel sort the mail by recipient. Mail addressed to the governor personally will go to a box or bin or container. Only the name matters at this point.

Third, the governor’s office. The Governor will not read your letter. Some secretary or flunky in the governor’s office will read your letter. In rare cases, the letter may be passed on to the governor. In 99.9% of cases, the letter will get a checkbox indicating what form letter you will be sent. Don’t try marking the envelope “Personal” or “For the Governor’s Eyes only” or any such silliness. The reality is that the Governor gets tens of of thousands of letters and can’t read them more than a fraction. If you were of any importance to the Governor you wouldn’t be writing a letter in the first place.

There’s a difference between not getting a personal response and utter futility. Staff will notice if letters are coming in strong on a certain subject. Staff will also notice if a letter points out a real and specific concern and will pass it on to a department that covers that. Accusations of corruption or other crimes will be sent to the Attorney General’s Office. And so on and so forth. All mail will be dealt with in some way, but probably impersonally. Your letter may of course be one of the exceptions.

tl;dr If they give a PO Box, use the PO Box.

Thanks, everyone. Ignorance fought!

Well, maybe not, in a state of a million people.

But yeah, even in Montana, the governor probably doesn’t read most of his mail personally.

I doubt if he reads any of the letters he gets. He doesn’t come across as a “read letters from my constituents” type of governor. He the ex-CEO of a large software company. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. I’m just hoping that one of his flunkies forces him to read it.

Flunkies don’t force governors to do anything. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

You’re right of course.

As @Exapno_Mapcase said, just because your letter doesn’t end up on the Governor’s desk doesn’t mean the effort is utterly futile. At the very least, your position will be noted in some sort of internal tracking system and reflected in his understanding of where his constituents stand.

If you want to increase your odds of getting attention you have a couple of options. I assume you’re writing in opposition to some policy or position of his (that’s why most people write to politicians) but if you’re in support of some initiative of his and you have a compelling personal story to illustrate why, THAT will get you noticed. Politicians are always looking for testimonials to put a face on the good things they’re doing.

My other advice is to organize. Your letter alone has a pretty small impact. Dozens or hundreds of letters sent by constituents as an organized block making the same points (but NOT a form letter) will get much more attention. Constituents organizing around a specific issue sends shivers up the average politician’s spine. This tends to be more effective on issues that are local and parochial (“We need a red light at State and Main!”) than broad policy debates (“End abortion now!”).

Politicians will rate a letter by the amount of effort put into it. Which is why form letters are of minimal impact. A hand written letter clearly composed by the individual sender counts vastly more. Use of stock phrases and slogans diminishes impact.

If you want to affect policy, you need to make it clear that enough people care that the issue matters where it counts, in the ballot box.

Someone who cares enough to put pen to paper probably represents a significant number of other voter’s opinions. Someone sending in a form letter possibly not even their own opinion. A form email won’t even register on the dial.

I read this somewhere: Politicians have statistics that tell them how many other voters’ opinions each actual letter is worth.

The rule at the United States Post Office, AIUI, is that the last address on the envelope is where they will deliver it. Specifically, if a letter shows both a street address and a P. O. Box address, whichever is listed last is where it goes.

There IS a scheme where the Post Office can receive private (Fedex, UPS, etc.) deliveries to a P. O. Box. I don’t know if it’s nationwide or only implemented at selected post offices. And I think you (the expecting recipient) have to sign up for the service in advance.

Then, you give the shipper (e.g., Amazon) the street address of the actual post office, and give your P. O. Box number as if it were your apartment or suite number. Then the shipper (e.g. Amazon) never knows your true home address. They think that the post office address you gave is just some apartment building. And the post office will receive it and get it into the right P. O. Box or locker.

This PDF from USPS explains it and has the application form:

Thanks for all of the useful information. I know it’s a long shot, but it’s actually something the Governor can make happen if he wanted to (I think).

The letter is asking him to help me get X-linked Adrenoleukodystrophy added to Newborn Screening in Montana. X-ALD runs in my family, and while it’s rare, the cerebral form is fatal to young boys who aren’t diagnosed early enough for a bone marrow transplant. I have a grandson going through this right now.

So far 20 other states have added it, but Montana is one of the states lagging behind. I need to find some other families that can benefit from this testing, but I thought I would at least make him aware of the issue if he cares about this stuff.

This may be quite achievable. For the governor it is a no risk easy win. To make it worth his time see if there is some tactic that can get him a feel-good media opportunity. Haul in the other families, see if you can get a local reporter on side for a story. If you make it as easy as possible for all the players to get what they want/need you can make it work. Which means doing the leg work for the reporter to get the feel good story, and the governor the media coverage.

This is nature of some things. The cost of adding the test is hidden deep in budgets that no-one cares about. The person with control of the question is likely a career public servant, but starting with the governor likely the right place.

A few thoughts:

Start with your state legislators. They have many fewer constituents than the Governor and are likely to be more responsive. Particularly good if they’re on a relevant committee or have some kind of interest in health issues. Write, call, request an opportunity to meet with them on this issue. Bring them a specific ask of what you would like to see done (e.g. add X-linked Adrenoleukodystrophy to the list of conditions screened for under Montana Statute XYZ).

Research how it was added in the other 20 states. Are there certain organizations that have been active on this issue? If so, reach out to them – they may well already be attempting to make this happen in Montana and your story could be a boon to their efforts.

And by all means write to the Governor. When I mentioned “parochial” issues in my previous response, this is exactly what I was talking about. An issue that only impact a small number of his constituents but is vitally important for them. Couch the issue in human terms through the experience of your grandson (including a cute picture wouldn’t hurt) and include a specific ask as to what you would like to see done.

Good luck! It may not seem like it, but government can occasionally be responsive!

Great idea FV. I can probably make something like that happen as I have a few contacts in the local media who would work with me. I’m trying to track down other impacted families in Montana, but getting that information is a challenge. There is an organization called ALD Connect that probably has that information from their contact list but they are reluctant to give that kind of information out. I think they’ve been burned once or twice before by someone trying to directly advertise to their members.

The irony is that I tried my best to keep this Governor from getting elected, not that he would know that, and there are lots of things I despise about him that I will have to keep buried deep, but in this case, I would lick his boots if I thought it would make this to happen.

Thanks, flurb. I’ll contact my local state reps too. I hadn’t thought of them since the Montana state legislature only meets once every 2 years.

Ha, same here in Texas. However, from my experience, state legislators are often looking for “small” issues where they can make a name for themselves and demonstrate that they’re able to deliver for their constituents. A lot will ride on how influential, savvy and just generally competent your particular state legislators are.

My best advice to you is to be respectfully persistent – don’t take “I’ll look into this matter” as the final answer. As in all other aspects of life, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Also, make things as easy as possible for them – e.g. know what exactly has to change (would it require a change to statute or just a state agency’s rules), what has been the experience in other states who adopted the change, who might oppose this change (and what are the counterarguments to their arguments), etc. The more you can serve up for them on a silver platter, the better.