Congress is about to do something that you feel strongly about. You need to tell your representatives what you think. But what’s the best way to do that?
This blog post will help you learn the most effective way to make your voice heard.
First, you need to learn who your Congressional representatives are. Go read the first One Thing You Can Do post, Self-advocacy 101: Find Your Congressional Representatives.
Once you have the names of your reps and their contact information in hand, think about why you are calling, how your reps can act on your request, and which reps you should call.
Sometimes you will need to call all three–both senators and your house rep. Other times, you’ll need to call only your senators, or only your house rep. It is important to call only those who can help you. Senators can’t assist with house matters, and house reps can’t address things handled by the senate.
Other things that interest you might be better directed at someone else–your state-level legislative reps, your local school board, your governor, your mayor. Think about what, specifically, you want your Congressional reps to do. If they don’t have the power to act on your request, don’t call them. Find out who does have the power, and call them instead.
After you’ve learned who to call, compose a short script on the topic you want to discuss. It should be no more than five sentences–equivalent to an extremely short blog post or two tweets’ worth of material.
Your script needs to include your name, your zip code, why you are calling, and what specific action you want your representative to take on your behalf.
Shorter is better. Writing and following a script will help you avoid rambling.
Example for a Senator: I am (Firstname Lastname), from zip code (12345), and I wanted to ask Senator (Lastname) to oppose the nomination of Jeff Sessions to the office of the Attorney General of the United States. His civil rights record is abysmal, and it should disqualify him from this critical post. (If your senator is on a relevant committee, say, ‘I know Senator (Lastname) is on the Judiciary Committee. I am asking the senator to vote against Sessions in Committee.’) Thank you.
Example for a House rep: I am (Firstname Lastname), from zip code (12345), and I wanted to ask Representative (Lastname) to vote against H.R. 2802, the so-called First Amendment Defense Act. It would allow bigots to discriminate against LGBTQ people under the cover of religion. Please uphold the rights of gays, lesbians, transgender people, and others by fighting to defeat this bill. Thank you. (Note to readers–this is a real House bill. OTYCD will address it in a future post.)
Be impeccably polite to the person who answers the phone. If the topic you need to talk about makes you too angry, rehearse your script until you can say the words without getting mad.
Giving your name and zip code is key. It lets their staff know you are a real person who lives in the area they represent. They do not count, or act on, calls from people who live elsewhere; their actual constituents’ needs come first, as they should.
Calling is the best method of reaching your Congressional representative. While many Congressional representatives are active on social media, they and their offices don’t give much weight yet to statements that come to them through social media platforms, even if they’re from genuine constituents. Don’t tweet, Snapchat, or Facebook it–call!
Email is second to calling. Postal mail can matter, but might arrive too slowly, depending on the situation. If you can use the phone, do it.