Calling your local representatives is easier than it seems, and here are a few handy tips that have been shared by insiders in order to make the most of your time. Definitely check these out before you call. And if you’re looking for the contact info for your reps, check this site to find out who they are, then use this site to reach Senators and this site to contact members of the House of Representatives. (You can also call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 to ask the operator to be connected to them).
The first set comes from a tweet (also posted on reddit) from comedian Aparna Nancherla, who shared these tips from her friend who used to work on Capitol Hill (and wanted to remain anonymous). Some great advice below.
Friends! As some of you know, I used to work on Capitol Hill as the person in charge of all the incoming phone calls to my Senator’s office. I have some insider tips to make calling your reps easier and quicker.
- Give your name, city, and zip code, and say “I don’t need a response.” That way, they can quickly confirm you are a constituent, and that they can tally you down without taking the time to input you into a response database.
- PLEASE ONLY CALL YOUR OWN REPRESENTATIVES! Your tally will not be marked down unless you can rattle off a city and zip from the state, or are calling from an in-state area code. I know you really want to give Mitch McConnell a piece of your mind, but your call will be ignored unless you can provide a zip from Kentucky. And don’t try to make this up; I could often tell who was lying before I even picked up the phone from the caller ID. Exceptions to this are things like Paul Ryan’s ACA poll.
- State the issue, state your position. “I am opposed to a ban on Muslims entering the US.” “I am in favor of stricter gun control legislation including background checks.” “I am in favor of the Affordable Care Act.” That’s it. That’s all we write down so we can get a tally of who is in favor, who is against. It doesn’t matter WHY you hold that opinion. The more people calling, the less detail they write down. Help them out by being simple and direct.
- Please be nice! The people answering the phones on Capitol Hill already had the hardest job in DC and some of the lowest pay as well, and for a month now their jobs have become absolute murder, with nonstop calls for 9 hours every day. Thank them for their hard work answering the phones, because without them our Senators could not represent us. What does this sound like?
“Hi, my name is Mark, I’m a constituent from Seattle, zip code 98***, I don’t need a response. I am opposed to any ban on Muslims entering the United States and I encourage the Senator to please oppose implementation of any such ban. Thanks for your hard work answering the phones!”
This is how I wish every caller had phrased their message. It makes it easier for the people answering the phones and takes less time and emotion than a long script. I know that you want to say why, but keeping it short and sweet helps the office answer more calls per hour, meaning more people get heard. The bigger the tally, the more powerful our voice.
Also, when you’re reading off the same script as 100 other callers that day… well…they can tell. Pick one issue each day, use this format (I am in favor of _____ or I oppose ______), and call your 2 Senators and 1 Representative on their DC and State Office lines, and you’ll be on your way to being heard.
Another great bunch of tips comes way of a series of tweets from former congressional staff member Emily Ellsworth that have been packaged below via Storify. You can also purchase her full guide that she promotes, but the tweets are handy as is.