Tips for calling your elected reps :
Whether you get a person or an answering machine, start by saying: “Hello, my name is _______, I’m a constituent from [zip code], and I’m calling to ask [senator/representative] ________ to: ”
There are three ways to make your call a useful one:
- Keep it short. If you just want your voice to be heard and counted, tell the staffer your opinion on an issue, thank them, and say goodbye.
- Include a personal anecdote. Does the issue you’re calling about affect you or a loved one? Tell them, explicitly, how this issue affects their constituent. Give details, if possible. Make it personal, recallable, and therefore something that staffer can write down and share with the rep.
- Are you an expert on a topic? (’m looking at you, Widener grads) Tell the staffer that picks up your call that you’d like to talk to the person who handles policy on that topic. You’ll get to have a longer, more in depth conversation about a topic that you have professional or academic experience in, and you may be able to give that policy-writer information that they can use to advise the rep.
Try a few different offices. If your local office is swamped, each elected rep usually has a few different locations: all around their district, in the state capital, and in Washington. Save them ALL in your phone, so when you can’t get through to your local office, you don’t have to overcome that extra step of going online to find more numbers.
Call your state reps, not just your federal reps. Did you know that you have state senators and congress people, and not just federal ones? Yes indeed, your state has a state senate, and a state house of representatives. The laws passed on a state level can affect you more immediately and severely than the federal ones can. They’re the laws that determine local funding, laws about abortion and healthcare, and anything else that we’ve been worrying about on a national level. Keep an eye on what’s going on locally, too.
If you’re really outgoing, and you have a lot of feelings about a specific issue, try to get to know the staff in a particular office. Talk to the same policy writer a few times, get them to know your name. Make an appointment with that staffer to talk to them in person. You can really make a huge effect by getting (politely) up in someone’s face, over and over again.
If you’re not really outgoing, write a quick and easy script (or ask me to do it), make your call, say the words, thank them, and hang up. That’s all you have to do. Just get your tally counted.
On that topic: you can cry. You can stutter. You can correct yourself. You can be upset (as long as you’re polite). You can repeat yourself, if that’s what comes out of your mouth. If those things happen, YOU DID NOT FUCK UP THE CALL. You didn’t. You shared your opinion, the staffer will count it, and that is a HUGE success, no matter how nervous or uncomfortable you sound.
Make it a routine. It freaked me out SO MUCH at first, to call all of the time. But I take about 7 minutes a day, to make my usual calls, and try to take a longer break once a week for the state reps (takes a little longer to prepare for those calls). The more often you do it, the less terrifying or hard or confusing it will be.
And above all: do it. Just do it. Make those calls, write post cards, visit the office, whatever. You have to. You HAVE to. It is so, so important that you contact your reps.