10 Things to Know When Calling Your Congressperson
Time for some hotline bling.
In the digital age it’s so comfortable to text, email, or tweet. The anonymity of the internet makes it a quick and easy way to express sentiments, and you can often go back and edit your words. But, the power of picking up the phone remains when it comes to taking action.
Take advice from Emily Ellsworth, who spent six years working in offices for congressmen from Utah, shared her insight via Twitter that calls are the one remaining communication that cannot be ignored today.
But, the most effective thing is to actually call them on the phone. At their district (state) office. They have to talk to you there.— Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016
Now, with a changing government Americans have more reason than ever to voice both concerns and support for policymakers decisions. Congress is receiving more calls than ever. And, if done in the right way, this can lead to powerful change.
Here are 10 tips for calling Congress, to ensure your message is heard.
1. Add 202-224-3121 to your phone favorites.
It’s the Capitol switchboard, which connects you to representative and/or senator.
2. Pick up the phone.
Call first, rant on Facebook later. Calling Congress is the most effective way to send a message. Twitter and emails serve a different function — they signify to political leader what topics constituents are interested in, as most are sorted by algorithms today. They do get seen, but not as immediately as talking to someone on the phone. Calls, on the other hand, are answered by staff, recorded then a list is given to the senator or congressman.
3. Find your representative.
Pro tip: Call your representatives local district offices. They usually have more staff available to talk to constituents than a Washington office. From Senate.gov or House.gov, find your rep, click on their page, and scroll to the bottom for their other offices.
4. Don’t stalk your lawmakers on the phone.
Call until you can get through to speak to someone or leave a voicemail, but don’t call over and over again. This will just block other people from getting through the line.
5. Call your own lawmakers.
Congress wants to hear from the people in their own districts so call your own representatives.
“Members of Congress track engagement from their district but are much less interested in engagement outside of their district. Calling senators who don't represent you clogs their lines and keeps constituents from being able to log their support. Of course, there are a few exceptions like committee chairpeople and the speaker of the house,” says Judith Rowland, Global Citizen US Policy and Advocacy Manager.
6. Research your stance.
Read a summary of the bill(s) you want your representative to either support or oppose.
7. Write it down.
“Clearly state what you want and what you want from the elected representative. It will help to have a one sentence blurb written down,” says David Ambuel, Global Citizen US Policy and Advocacy Associate.
8. Be clear, concise, and confident!
Remember you’ll likely be talking to a staff assistant, who is quite friendly. They are also dealing with lots of calls, especially right now.
9. State your name.
Tell them where you’re from. They’ll probably ask for your zip code.
Say something like, “I’m calling to request [insert Senator name]’s support for S.248 – a bill that was introduced to reverse President Trump’s executive order.” Or “I want you to cosponsor H.R. 724.”
10. Remind yourself: You’re taking action to create change.
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