Calling Your Senators or Representative
Talking with your representative or his staff liasion on the phone is nearly as good as talking to him or her in person. When you’ve got him on the phone, you know you have his full attention, at least for a little while.
Here’s how to do it. First, find your legislators. Look up the phone number. If you're calling Congress you can call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202/ 224-3121 and ask for your Senator/Representative’s office. Simple, isn’t it? Don’t worry about disturbing your representative – he or she was elected to represent you. No one can do that job unless you make known your position on an issue.
Here are some tips to give your call more impact:
- If at all possible, talk directly with your representative. Always ask to speak with your member by name, explaining to the receptionist who you are and why you are calling. Tell the receptionist you’ll take only a few minutes of her time.
- Build a relationship with staff. Telephone calls that the member can’t answer that moment are often rerouted to staff. If you can’t reach the representative, ask to speak to the aide who handles the issue on which you wish to comment. More often than not these staffers will pass your information on to the representative. In many cases, they will be more knowledgeable about specific legislation than your representative will be, and will be making the final recommendation to him on how to vote. Treat these aides courteously - they have a tough job.
- Go straight to the point of your call. When you reach your target, introduce yourself and explain why you are calling. After a short exchange of pleasantries, tell him what he needs to hear from you. “Please tell Senator Smith that I oppose Senate Bill 587.” You will want to state your reasons for your support or opposition in a few clear sentences. Prepare what you want to say ahead of time. Don’t waste his time or yours.
- Follow up your conversation with a letter. The letter should begin, “I enjoyed talking with you Monday,” or something similar. This lets the person who opens the mail know that the contents are of a more personal nature, and should be handled with care.
- Don’t be a pest. As in most things, moderation is a virtue when communicating by telephone. Call when you need to, but don’t abuse the privilege. If you call occasionally, you will be seen as an ally and a source of information for your legislator. Call too often, and you become a pest.