Calling Congress - some common and important rules
I'm updating this information from sources across the web: please let me know if you have any suggestions to make the process easier and more impactful. Thanks!
Who to call:
- For Federal issues, your Representative and your two Senators. Use the Common Cause "Find Your Elected Officials" tool to list your Federal and state legislators.
- For issue-specific calls, reach out to a national organization that shares your views: they do this for a living, so they're probably more effective in advocating on your behalf, and every little bit helps.
Know what you want to say. Jot down a quick draft if you need to: I find it helps. Answer these five questions:
- Who are you?
- Where are you calling from?
- Why are you calling?
- What do you want your representative to do?
- When would be a good time to follow up?
Be nice. Have you ever picked up a phone, only to hear someone shouting at you? Did you want to keep talking to that person? No? Then don't be that person. Be nice and be polite. If you're not automatically directed to voicemail, you'll probably end up speaking with a volunteer or a low-level staffer. You're making a first impression, so make it a good one.
Be a constituent. This is really important, and bears repeating: be a constituent. When you call your representatives, identify yourself, and give your address. Don't waste your time and efforts by calling someone you can't vote for.
What to expect. At first, the person you're speaking to will probably note your name and address, the issue you're calling about, and whether you're for it or against it. That's a good first step! It's quick and to the point, and lets your voice be heard.
Other possibilities. It's possible that your call will be transferred from your local district office to a DC office. Repeat the steps above, and good job!
Following up. You might not get an answer the first time. Maybe the representative isn't aware of the issue, doesn't have a position yet, or might be hedging or evasive... and that's okay at first. Ask to call back at a later time, then follow up.
Ask to speak to the Legislative Assistant who focuses on your issue: they're the people who "monitor pending legislation, conduct research, draft legislation, give advice and counsel, and make recommendations" - in other words, the people you ultimately do want to speak to.
Constituent events. Town halls. "Get to know your Representative" events. Ask if there are any coming up, and if you can attend.