In case you haven’t noticed, right now is not the time for complacency when it comes to politics. There’s plenty going on that needs to be addressed (from family separations to the threats against Roe V. Wade). One way to tackle these issues is by reaching out to our senators and representatives. One can write e-mails or letters, of course, but another great way to fight for your rights is by calling congress directly.
But how exactly does one call a representative or senator? Will you be speaking with them directly? How do you know what to say? It can be a bit intimidating, but don’t worry—we’ve got you covered.
First, Why Should You Pick Up That Phone?
While it may sometimes feel like we don’t have much of a say in what our government does, that’s actually not true. Reaching out to members of congress is incredibly important, especially close to election time. When enough constituents put pressure on them, they very well may change their stance on an issue. They might vote for or against bills, or introduce new legislation for consideration. And while emailing and sending postcards is helpful, lots has been written about why calling is often the best way to get a congress member’s attention.
Find Out Who Your Local Senators and Representatives Are
Nowadays, there’s really no excuse to not know how to find out who your congresspeople are. You could start by searching government websites to locate your Senators and locate your Representatives. Or try a website like Call My Congress where you can enter your zip code and in seconds, obtain phone numbers, party affiliation, Twitter accounts, and links to voting records for all your local senators and representatives.
You can also call 202-225-3121 to be patched through to the right Representative, and 202-224-3121 to have the operator transfer you to your Senator. You can speak to their Washington D.C. office, their local office, or both. The local office lines tend to be less busy, so that might be the way to go. Or if you have time, you can always call both (especially if one line is busy and you end up leaving a voicemail).
Plan What You Want To Say
Feel free to do a little research about these members of congress so you know which issues you’d like to contact them about. Knowing their voting record will help you figure out whether you’re on the same page or not. Make a list of issues you want to discuss, and simply make one call per issue so you don’t get too overwhelmed initially. Remember to keep it short and sweet. These offices can get hundreds of calls a day, and if you’re long-winded about it, they might fail to write much of what you’re saying.
Understand that when you call a member of congress, you likely won’t be speaking with them directly. Instead, you’ll be speaking with one of their many aides who will take down your information and message to relay it to that particular House Representative or Senator. You can always let them know that you’d prefer to speak to an aide that handles the issue you’re calling about.
Make It Happen
A lot of us get anxious just before making a call, especially an important one. Practice what you plan to say beforehand. Remember that you’ll need to identify yourself, state that you are a constituent (very important), and include your home address and/or zip code. Stay cordial throughout. Many of us feel especially passionate about some of these issues, but if you’re going to be rude or disrespectful, you probably won’t be taken very seriously.
Have a pen and paper handy so you can write down the name of the aide you spoke with (as well as the day and time and what you discussed) in the event you’d like to follow up in the future. If you’re especially passionate about an issue, you can even ask to set up a meeting to go in person and discuss the matter at hand.
Websites and apps like YouLobby, The 65, and 5 Calls will even give you a script to follow that you can read or modify as needed. These tools help you figure out what issue you should be calling about on any given day (or they may give you a list of different scripts to use and you can decide what feels most urgent).
These days, there really isn’t a reason why you shouldn’t be contacting congress and making your voice heard. Vow to make at least one call a week, or get some friends together and make a party out of it. It’s up to all of us to be the change we wish to see, after all.