It takes about a minute to call each of the 3 people who represent you in Congress, and calls really do make a difference. Senators and representatives keep statistics on how many people in their districts call about an issue, and this helps them decide how to vote.
For example, imagine Congress is considering passing a bill that says all hedges have to be cut in the shape of koalas. If Congresswoman Smith gets 1000 phone calls about this issue, and 950 of them are against the bill, she’s far more likely to vote against it, too — even if Big Koala is a generous donor to her campaign.
There are a few things to know if you want your call to count. Here they are:
Is the issue relevant right now?
The main reason you call your representatives is that they’re about to vote on something. You’re trying to shape the law-making process.
Know what you’re calling about
Find out the name of the bill — and maybe its number — that you’re calling about.
You might not’ve known that bills have numbers. They do. Usually, you can find this with a little internet research will. It’ll look something like “H.R. 43044” or “S. 34.” Also, bills often have names that aren’t in the news. For example, Obamacare was really named “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”
Here’s a site that might help you find bills under consideration right now.
Only call your representatives (i.e. Find out who represents you first!)
Maybe you heard a senator from another state say something about climate change that you thought was terrible. While it might feel good to call the Senator and express your anger, you should not. Senators and representatives care about calls from the people who vote for them.
If you need to find out who your representatives are, there are lots of sites that can help. Here’s are 2:
You can also call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your senators’ or representative’s office.
What happens when you call
You’ll get a staff member, possibly an intern, who’s handling the phones (Don’t expect the senator or representative to answer.) Here’s what you’ll need to say:
- Who you are and what town you live in. You want to make sure your representatives know that you’re one of the people who vote for them.
- The bill you’re calling about and if you support it or not
For example: “Hi, my name is Luke Skywalker. Could you please let Senator Organa know that I do not support H.R. 5432, Protection for Sith Lords. Thanks!”
That’s it! You don’t need to give a reason, as this former Congressional aide explains. Your call is going toward a tally of people who support or don’t support the issue. You’re not persuading your senator or representative to think about the issue differently.
One last, very important thing
Be nice to the people who answer the phones. They’re there to gather information and to pass it along. You won’t accomplish anything if you’re a jerk to the intern — except for maybe making them think bad things about people who share your beliefs.