It’s been an absolutely wild year. Actually, it’s been a wild last few years — from the Black Lives Matter movement to the COVID-19 pandemic still burning like wildfire through our global infrastructure, there’s been no shortage of high-profile events or issues to think about.
While I can’t and won’t pretend that it’s been smooth sailing, this turmoil has made it much easier to prove one singular, incontrovertible truth: everything is political, from the price of your coffee to the roads you drive on. And that means that it’s your prerogative — your right as an American citizen — to make your voice heard on the issues you care about. Do you want your representatives to support a proposed pandemic relief bill? Would you appreciate if your senators either blocked or confirmed a new Supreme Court justice? Is your sole mission in life to end the filibuster? There’s one surprisingly easy way to make that all happen: call your elected officials.
I know that sounds intimidating. And I understand why — you are, after all, going on the record to challenge or petition an individual who wields an enormous amount of influence over your day-to-day life. But that’s exactly why calling your representatives is so effective, more so than any social media campaign, email advocacy, or letter-writing: it shows commitment to a cause, and elected officials know that despite their positions of power, they’re dependent on their constituents to earn reelection.
And it's actually easier than you think! Just follow our guide, below, and you’ll be well on your way to making a difference that matters.
If you already know who your elected officials are, you can skip this step. But there’s also no shame at all in not knowing! Many people can’t name their members of Congress off the top of their head.
Luckily, it’s incredibly easy to find out. Services like Call My Congress or 5 Calls can give you that information quickly — just enter your street address and zip code, and you’ll have all of your legislators’ contact information at your fingertips.
If you feel comfortable calling legislators’ Capitol Hill offices directly, you absolutely should. But if you’re unable to do that for any reason, you can dial the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to ask to be connected to your senator or representative. The operator will direct your call straight to their DC Office, and you’re good to go!
Usually, a legislative assistant will answer the phone and ask if you need a response. It’s often better to say you don’t, so that they can tally you quicker without having to go through the extra step of adding you to a database.
If you’re new to making calls, or nervous about saying the right thing, use a script. It’s important to be clear about the reason you’re calling, so you want to be as concise as possible. Often, organizations will provide their own script templates for specific advocacy campaigns — 5Calls is especially good at providing free scripts for different issues — but you can also draft your own if you’re uncomfortable or wary of using prefabricated content.
Here’s an example of a quick call script, modeled after a conversation provided by a former Capitol Hill legislative assistant.
“Hello, my name is [name]. I’m a constituent from [state], zip code [zip code]. I don’t need a response. I’m calling to express my concern over [reason you’re calling], and I strongly encourage [whoever you’re calling] to [call to action]. I appreciate your hard work and time.”
Only call your representatives! It can be tempting to call those directly involved in controversial initiatives or policies, but unless you can provide a zip code that proves you’re a constituent, your call will be ignored entirely — and can actually create a backlog of calls coming from actual constituents in the district, making it less likely their voices are heard in a timely manner.
If you’re the kind of person that needs an extra push to talk to a representative, you can also check out Make Me Call, a service that calls you every day to automatically connect you with one of your representatives’ offices. Just make sure you have your script ready to go!
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