How to Contact Your Federal Government

Hello, all!

When you want your government to hear your voice, there are more effective ways and less effective ways. This is a reference document which I will be linking to when it’s time to make your voice heard.

Most effective: Call the elected representatives local office and speak to a staffer, in person. For our federal representatives, the local office is the office located in the state where they were elected.

To find your representative in the House of Representatives, click here. You can enter your ZIP Code and a page will pop up with a link to your representative’s website. Somewhere on that page will be a link to “Offices”, and you will find a local office number there.

To find your Senator, click here. Then search on your state abbreviation. You have two Senators, and they both represent your entire state. Click on their name, and it will take you to their website. Somewhere on that page will be a link to “Offices”, and you will find a local office number there.

The White House line for public comment is (202) 456-1111.

When you call, have a script. Tell them who you are. If you’re calling a Representative, tell them the town you live in, so that they know that they represent you. If you’re calling a Senator, tell them the town and state you live in, so that they know that you live in their state, and so that they picture roughly where, and for verisimilitude. Anyone can claim to be from a state. Few people who are lying will pick a town.

Be polite. You want them to listen.

“Hello. My name is {your name}. I live in {location}. I am calling to urge {Title, Name} to {support or oppose} {specific issue}.” Then give ONE reason why you care so much that you’re calling: “This legislation is going to make it impossible for people like me, who have had cancer, to get health coverage.” Or whatever.

They will reply. As long as the conversation stays relevant, stay polite and keep talking. Actual transmission of detail is secondary. Your primary goal is to grab their attention. You want that staffer to say to their boss, “Wow! The phones have been OFF THE HOOK with people hating on this legislation! I’m exhausted and can’t get anything else done!”

In other words, be polite, be relevant, and be unignorable.


Basically ineffective: Twitter, Facebook, email. Staffers don’t have time to look at the likes or read the comments.

Slightly more effective: a physical letter, mailed via the US Postal Service. They tally them, batch them, and reply with form letters. That times time and expense.


Does all of this favor the verbally able and disempower people who work best in print? Yes. It’s not fair. It’s just what works. I’m a writer; I feel your pain. But it’s what works. That’s why you write a bit of script on a napkin before you call. There’s a good writeup on how to do this contacting if you have social anxiety here.


This series of tweets from a former congressional staffer, Emily Ellsworth, went viral, and explains pretty well. I excerpt it here, for the day when the link is no more.

I worked for Congress for 6 years, and here’s what I learned about how they listen to constituents. First, tweeting or writing on Facebook is largely ineffective. I never looked at those comments except to remove the harassing ones. Second, writing a letter to the district office (state) is better than sending an email or writing a letter to DC.

But, the most effective thing is to actually call them on the phone. At their district (state) office. They have to talk to you there. [emphasis added]

We repped half a million people, it was impossible to read and respond personally to all letters. Impossible. This was something in particular that I cared about as a staffer and worked very hard on, but the sheer volume of emails is overwhelming. So, we batched them with computer algorithms and sent out form letters based on topic and position. Regardless of method received.

But, phone calls! That was a thing that shook up our office from time. One time, a radio host gave out our district office phone # on air. He was against our immigration policy and told our constituents to call. And they did. All. Day. Long. All I did all day was answer phones.

It was exhausting and you can bet my bosses heard about it. We had discussions because of that call to action.

If we started getting a pattern of calls, I called up our DC office and asked if they were getting the same calls and we talked.

In other words, use a contact method which is not ignorable. No one has to read an email or a Facebook message. But someone has to answer the phone.

But that just gets you a staffer. What if you want to talk to the actual elected representative?

If you want to talk to your rep, show up at town hall meetings. Get a huge group that they can’t ignore. Pack that place and ask questions.

We held town halls consistently that fewer than 50 people showed up for. And it was always the same people. So, shake it up.

If you run an advocacy group, invite local staffers to show up to your events. Let them talk to people you work with and set up meetings.

As always, please be kind but firm with those staffers. They will listen and talk to you. I always, always did. …if the staff knows you, when they have a question about a piece of legislation or amendment, [you] will be the one [they] call.

Don’t waste your time. Make them listen.

Grace

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2 thoughts on “How to Contact Your Federal Government

  1. Pingback: Public service announcement: “Obamacare” and the Affordable Care Act ARE THE SAME THING | And Taking It Personally

  2. Pingback: Trump About to Sign on Legalizing TLBG discrimination | And Taking It Personally

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