In a world of social media and texting, phone calls seem like an increasingly outdated form of communication, with doctor’s appointments, credit card inquiries, and even check-ins with your family taking place online.
But let's say you read about a new bill on health care. You realize the bill would affect you or your family, or maybe you just think it’s not a good policy. So, what do you do? Send an email to your public officials with links supporting all your arguments? Send a passionate tweet? Sign a petition that’s going around?
Or you could dial your representative’s office number and make your case.
Calling a politician can seem downright daunting. What if you get nervous and forget the words? What if your message is too generic? What if you get drilled with questions?
The reality is that calling a public official is extremely easy and risk-free, and outside of sitting in front of their office and demanding an audience, it’s the most effective way to make sure your voice is heard.
Here are three things you should know about calling your rep.
1. It’s easy
Microwaving a slice of pizza, scrolling through Instagram, waiting for the New York City subway — these are all things that take longer than calling a politician.
That’s because various organization and political engagement platforms exist, including Global Citizen, that make it easy and seamless for you to call your representative.
All you have to do is download the Global Citizen app and locate the topic you want to call a representative on — anything from getting prosecutors to end cash bail to calling on politicians to increase refugee resettlement and aid.
Once an action is selected, a brief description of the topic is provided. For example, in a call to Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance to end cash bail, you learn how bail perpetuates poverty.
You then type in your phone number and a precise phone number is provided, including any extension numbers if necessary.
A script is also provided that you can read word-for-word or use as a reference. Either way, once the call goes through, you’ll either be greeted by a call agent who merely says, ”Hi,” and asks for your name, or a voicemail box. If an agent answers, they won’t be challenging your knowledge or asking in-depth questions. They’re simply writing down what you want to say and then they’ll relay that message to their bosses.
So all you need to do is make your case in a few sentences.
And that’s it! Back to scrolling through Instagram.
2. Phone calls highlight issues
Political activists and politicians across the ideological spectrum all agree that phone calls are the most effective way to make sure your voice is heard.
“It brings a legislative issue right to the top of the mind of a member,” Emily Ellsworth, a former Congressional staff member for Republicans, told the New York Times. “It makes it impossible to ignore for the whole staff. You don’t get a whole lot else done.”
Because phone calls are received by staff members, they’re quickly relayed to the targeted politician, giving them a sense of what constituents care about. A call can also spur a public official to learn more about a topic, reach out to fellow lawmakers to collaborate, and generally prioritize a matter.
“What representatives and staffers want to hear is the individual impact of your individual story,” Ellsworth added. “I couldn’t listen to people’s stories for six to eight hours a day and not be profoundly impacted by them.”
When tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people call an office about a single topic, it can send a resounding signal that the issue in question has to be addressed.
3. Phone calls get things done
When a politician receives enough phone calls, they usually make sure constituents know that they’ve been heard and that they’re either affirming, updating, or reconsidering their positions.
It also gives politicians the evidence they need to publicly support a position because they know that they’ll have the support of their constituents if they do so.
When 50 Global Citizens called the office of Pennsylvania Congressman Dwight Evans in favor of foreign aid last year, he redoubled his support.
“Already 50 Global Citizens across my district have called my office to show their support for American foreign aid,” Congressman Evans said at the time. “I’m so proud to see everyone standing up and speaking out.”
The Senate ultimately defended foreign aid from steep budget cuts requested by the Trump administration in 2017, saving programs like access to water and sanitation and climate change preparedness.
On scores of other issues, politicians have voiced their appreciation for phone calls.
Thanks to everyone calling in & making your voice heard! The phones are busy but please keep it up and keep trying to get through.— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) January 27, 2017
The last three days have been the BUSIEST IN CAPITOL SWITCHBOARD HISTORY. By almost double. This is working. Keep it up and please RT.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) February 2, 2017
We are experiencing heavy call volumes in all our offices. Staff is answering as many as possible. Please continue calling to get through.— Dean Heller (@SenDeanHeller) February 2, 2017
“I’ve written bills that became law because people called to complain about a particular issue I was unaware of,” a staff member of Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon told the New Yorker.
Politics can often seem like a scrum, an inaccessible and chaotic mess of noise, but when a simple act like calling a lawmaker moves a bill along — that shows that everyday citizens still have power.