It’s worth stating: while corporations can lobby elected officials and provide financial support to candidates’ campaigns, corporations and super PACs don’t vote. People vote. In recent years, citizens with conservative views tend to engage with their representatives far more often and in greater numbers than liberals. We need to change how we engage with candidates running for office and continue to engage them once they’re elected.
Elected officials vote based on the feedback they receive from their most visible and vocal constituents. It may not feel that way now, but contacting congressional members IS having an impact. See below for tips on attending Town Hall events, visiting District/local offices, and placing calls to your congressional members.
Find your congressional members and information about them here.
The link finds your representatives in the House and Senate and provides information about them, the committees they sit on, and includes their voting records. If you’d like to dig around a bit more and find out who your local and state elected officials are (including governor and state house representatives), this site will get you there.
See the Helpful Tools & Apps page to find online tools and phone apps to help you plan and make direct actions.
Use social media and email to engage with each other – NOT our elected officials.
These platforms and writing letters are not the effective mechanisms to engage with congressional members. Congress doesn’t pay that much attention to social media posts or read the emails from constituents. We aren’t engaging our congressional members if we’re posting on social medial or emailing them. Call them
Attend Town Hall Meetings or Visit Their District Office
The best way to engage our congressional members is to attend a Town Hall meeting (or other event open to the public) when they are visiting their District. Not sure when they’re visiting? Consider signing up for your congressional members’ e-newsletter. If upcoming District visits are not published on their official site, call their District office and express interest in attending the next Town Hall meeting and ask when it is. The Town Hall Project 2018 is a website that helps folks find when/where their congressional member is hosting an event.
A note on attending Town Halls and other events: Remember to grab your patriotic accessories such a small American flag or lapel pin, etc. along with your protest signs.
Go visit District or local offices because it’s effective.
Making a visit as an individual or a group is acceptable. Tea Party members showed up at District offices or mobile office and they did so often to talk to congressional staffers and their congressional members. Visiting a District office sends a clear message to the congressional member and their staff – we’re your constituents, we’re watching what’s going on in Congress, and noting how our congressional members vote. This is your most visible way to have your congressional member hear your viewpoint and concerns.
Call Their Offices – and Often
Calling is your opportunity to voice your opinion, to request the congressional member considers viewpoint and votes to support that viewpoint. Speaking with these congressional staffers is a great opportunity to educate them on what you, your family, friends, and colleagues are discussing and you’re tracking an issue or piece of legislation. Call often to stay engaged. We can’t expect our voice to be heard if we don’t keep up consistent pressure by calling on a specific issue, bill, etc. Follow up with congressional members’ offices after a vote and ask why they voted the way they did. This achieved a critical goal for the Tea Party movement – to keep the pressure on by engaging their congressional member and letting them know their constituents were watching and noted how they voted.
Where to Call and What to Expect:
1. Start by calling their local/District office then their DC office:
- Calls should take a few minutes or less.
- Tell them you are constituent.
- Make your point clearly so they can tally your opinion correctly (see tips below).
- If the voicemail is full and it is during office hours, press zero and connect to a staffer who may be able to transfer you to voicemail or take down your message.
2. Be prepared to give your name and address.
While you may not feel comfortable leaving your name, if you don’t, your call doesn’t carry as much weight as identifying yourself by name and address. At the very least, indicate you are a voting constituent and provide your zip code.
3. The staffer is most likely using a form to document your call.
As such, be specific about the issue (use the bill name or reference a specific committee hearing). The goal of any Call to Action is to generate high call volumes on a specific issue or bill and it’s important to have your request sorted into the correct category (yea or nay).
The goal: have your voice heard and let them know you (and others in the District) are concerned and are tracking this issue, bill, etc. Remind them that you are a voting constituent.
Tips for Speaking with Congressional Staff:
- Be respectful regardless of the congressional member’s party affiliation; the staffers that pick up the phone aren’t looking to challenge you.
- Be prepared (have the details in front of you) and reference the specific issue (ex: opposing an appointee or a nomination) or bill number (or amendment).
- Make requests, not demands (vote a certain way, take a specific action, educate others congressional members).
- Give the human side to your request and relate how specific issue or bill affects or will affect you, your family, your community, etc.Scripts supplied by others are helpful but you can (and should) use your own words.
- Listen to their responses, thank them for their time, let them know you will be following up on this issue.
Scripts are good. See the Helpful Tools & Apps page for resources including the 5Calls and CREDO Action calling campaigns. When calling our congressional members’ offices to inform them of our stance on an issue, we have one goal: to get our message across. We, the voting constituent, are following the congressional member’s voting record and we are interested in the outcome of the bill or issue’s resolution.
The following script template can be modified for nearly any scenario:
“I’m [your name here], a constituent calling to ask [Senator/Representative insert their name here] to [insert the action to support/oppose a specific issue or bill & insert the reason why], and ask for their support on this issue.”
As appropriate, you can add text like “Please ask [Senator/Representative insert their name here] to spread awareness about the impact of this [issue or bill] on American citizens.” Again, adding personal stories to back up your call is effective.