Sara Laughed

How to Call Your Representatives: A Guide for First-Time Callers

February 10, 2017 0 Comments 5 Photos

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Since November, I've been setting the intention to regularly call my representatives. I'm not alone; in the last few months, thousands more people than usual have been calling Congress, leaving lines jammed. If you're a US citizen or resident concerned about political issues, you have a right to call and make your voice heard. Calling can be easier said than done, especially at first; here are a few tips for how to call your representatives, along with some basic information on why it's important.

How to Call Your Representatives: A Guide for First-Time Callers - Sara Laughed

Questions About How to Call Your Representatives

Why contact your representatives?

Your senators and representative work for you. Their job is to represent their constituents, and if you live in their state or district, then they represent you, too, whether or not you voted for them or side with their political party. Contacting them can make a difference in how they vote on important issues. In a series of tweets that went viral a few months ago, former congressional staffer Emily Ellsworth shared that calling congress is one of the most effective ways of getting your message through:

Who has the right to contact congress?

If you are a U.S. resident or citizen, you do! Though U.S. residents who are not citizens are not able or allowed to vote in elections, they are still ensured equal representation under U.S. law, meaning that if you are an immigrant or a non-citizen, you still get to call congress. Though you will be asked to provide your zip code, you are not legally required to submit any personally identifiable information when you call your representative, and that includes your immigration status (you can read more on that on page 2 of the Indivisible guide).

Whom do I have the right to contact?

You can contact both of your senators, the representative from your congressional district, and the Speaker of the House. Representatives from other states or districts do not represent you, and your message will be ignored if you call them. Please only call your own representatives (more on how to find them below).

How to Call Your Representatives

Know who your representatives are

As I noted above, your calls only count if they go to the people who represent you. Websites like The 65, 5 Calls, and others that provide scripts and calls to action can help you find them and their contact information, and you can also find them on sites like Who Is My Representative, or the U.S. Senate's website.

How to Call Your Representatives: A Guide for First-Time Callers - Sara Laughed

Know what you want to say

It's important before you call to know what you want to communicate. Is there a specific vote coming up that you'd like to state your thoughts on? Is there another senator or representative whose actions you'd like your congressman to oppose? You might want to write down what you're planning on saying before you call, just so that you don't lose your nerve.

If you're not sure of exactly what you'd like to say about the issues that are bothering you, The 65 provides weekly calls to action for progressives and liberals, which include scrips that you can use as a baseline, and 5 Calls does the same. I haven't been able to find a similar website for conservatives or moderates, but if you have one that you like, please leave a comment below!

State your basic information before your position

Once you call your representative, you will (hopefully!) be able to speak with a person, or at least leave a message. If you start with your name, city, and zip code, you will save the person on the other end of the line time and trouble. Add that you don't need a response; this means that the person listening doesn't need to waste time adding you to their response database. So, for example:

“Hi there, my name is Anna, I'm a constituent from Boston, and my zip code is *****. I don't need a response.”

Be patient

Once you call, it may take a while for you to be connected to a person, or even to leave a message. Be patient and don't give up! Calling really does make a difference.

Be clear and concise about your position

I've seen different opinions on this; some staffers say it's better to be impassioned and personal, while others say it's better to be direct. Considering how busy the lines have been on Capitol Hill, I've been leaning towards clarity and concision:

“I am opposed to _________.” Or, “I am in favor of ______________.” Or, “I would like [your representative] to ___________.”

How to Call Your Representatives: A Guide for First-Time Callers - Sara Laughed

Be kind

The person you're calling is a person. Even if they represent a politician with whom you bitterly disagree, or a policy you hate, they are still a human being and their job has gotten a lot harder in the last few months. Be kind to them.

Other Tips for How to Call Your Representatives

Add their numbers as contacts

Once you know who your representatives are, it's easy to add their office lines as contacts on your phone so you don't have to look up the number each day. Bonus: you'll feel really cool having Nancy Pelosi as a contact.

Call regularly

When I was living in the States, I tried to call every morning right when the lines opened so that I could get it out of the way. Calling regularly helped me get used to the practice and get less nervous to pick up the phone.

Stay educated

The best foundation for making a difference is to stay educated on politics and current events. I wrote about this in my post on engaged citizenship, but reading the news regularly and even staying on certain congressional mailing lists will help you stay tuned in and know what you're talking about when you do call.

These tips have helped me get in touch with my representatives and make my voice heard. I'd love to hear how you get involved, or if you have any resources that you think I should add to this post. Please comment below and let me know!

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