Since the election, I’ve seen a massive uptick in campaigns to get people to call their representatives. That’s good, because contacting your representatives is one of the most direct ways you can play a role in shaping our democracy. Pressuring members of Congress will be critical in our efforts to oppose President Trump.
I’ve been preaching the importance of calling representatives to my own little circle of friends and coworkers, and I’ve received this reply more than once:
“How do I call my representatives, and what do I say?”
I’ve explained my process enough that I figured it would be useful to write it all down. I’ll say plainly that none of these ideas are original. Rather, this post is a compilation of the best advice I’ve gathered—from experts and friends who have worked the phones for politicians—and I’ll try to cite my sources where possible. That being said, here’s my method for quickly and easily calling your representatives.
Who you gonna call?
This goes without saying, but in order to effectively contact your
representatives, you need to know who to call about what issues. Start by looking up the numbers for both the state and federal offices of your senators and your representative in the House.
You don’t want to go looking up these numbers every time you want to call your representatives, so create a single contact in your phone for all of your representatives and reference it as necessary. Add phone numbers for local and federal offices and label accordingly. Here’s what my contact, “MN Representatives” looks like:
Deciding whom to call for what issue is easy from there. State issues go to your state senators and representatives; federal issues go to your U.S. senators and representatives; concerns over appointees go to your U.S. senators.
What do I say?
I use a site called 5calls.org to discover issues that need attention. You simply go to the site, enter your zip code, and it pulls up policy issues about which you can contact your representatives. It also gives you the numbers to their D.C. offices (which you won’t need because you came prepared) and a script.
Now, the staffers that answer your calls are unlikely to convey your heartfelt diatribes to their bosses. So I generally ignore the scripts on 5calls.org and instead follow my own script. It goes something like this:
Hi, my name is Tim Pate and I am a constituent from St. Paul, Minnesota. My address is [X], and my zip code is 55101. I am calling because I am [in favor of/opposed to] [policy].
If I know the issue well, I might add a sentence about why I feel the way I do. But these calls do not need to be long conversations.Nothing changes if you get voicemail. Most staffers are just tallying calls about certain issues and where constituents stand. They convey that aggregate data and perhaps a few anecdotes to their bosses. So keep it short and straightforward and let the next caller have their time.
One more tip: Keep your calls to one subject. Ranting about every issue on your mind is more likely to get your call tossed than it is to send a message to your representative. If you’ve got a lot to say, finish your call, and then call back. Yes, you will annoy the staffers on the other end; but more importantly, they’ll know that at least one constituent is highly invested in the actions of their boss.
And that’s it!
Calling your reps might seem intimidating to start, but it’s really a very simple and stress-free process. I take about 15 minutes each day over lunch and make all of my calls. Don’t overthink it…just get it done.