When it comes to politics and policies on everything from student loans to health care, you might find satisfaction in complaining on Twitter or Facebook.
But there’s a better way to use your time (and your voice): contacting your representatives.
It’s not hard. And it might actually work.
How to contact your representatives
If you want to share your opinion about an issue or a piece of legislation, here are three easy steps to follow.
1. Find out who your representatives are
The first step is determining who you’re going to call (and this time, the answer isn’t Ghostbusters).
You’re free to contact any politician you want, but your opinion is likely to matter only to your representatives.
Luckily, the internet has made it easy to find them.
When you type in your address on Call Your Rep, the site pulls up the names and contact information of your representatives. If you’re using the mobile site, there also will be a button you can click to call them directly.
If you have time to contact only one person, some say your congressperson is the best choice.
“Because your congressional rep serves fewer constituents than a senator, a call to your rep is more likely to be answered and carries more relative weight,” explained Call to Action, a website that shares congressional contact information.
Even less inundated are your local and state representatives, whom you can find on Open States. (Be aware they won’t have influence over national legislation, though.)
2. Pick up the phone
Although you might be tempted to send an email, congressional staffers say calling is more effective.
“It brings a legislative issue right to the top of the mind of a member,” former staffer Emily Ellsworth told The New York Times. “It makes it impossible to ignore.”
Ellsworth also said sharing personal stories is a smart strategy, as they have the ability to stick in a staffer’s mind — and potentially get passed on to a representative. Keep your statement brief and respectful, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
If you’re nervous, look for an easy script you can follow — like this one from Call to Action: “Hi, my name is [your name], and I’m a constituent from [your town/city]. I’m calling because [express your opinion on an issue here]. Please tell [rep name] to [support/oppose/speak out against] [your issue]. Thank you for your time.”
Once you get comfortable, you can add more details about why the issue matters to you personally.
For more in-depth strategies, check out this primer from Ellsworth:
3. Track the issues
Activism isn’t a once-and-done kind of thing. If you want your representatives to represent your interests, you need to continually remind them what those interests are.
To stay on top of the news, you can set up a Google Alert for issues or bills that matter to you and sign up for emails and updates from your representatives.
There are several tools designed to help you speak your mind, including the following:
- 5 Calls: This app highlights the most important issues happening right now — to ensure you call when it counts.
- Countable: Within this comprehensive app, you can track issues and bills, monitor how your representatives voted on certain issues, and even call them directly.
- Daily Action: Sign up for a daily text message that prompts you to call your representatives.
Lastly, you can speak up in person by attending a town hall event.
“There is no better way to influence your representatives than in-person conversations,” explained Town Hall Project, which lists upcoming events. “Town halls are a longstanding American tradition — where our elected representatives must listen and respond to the concerns of their constituents. Remember: You are their boss.”
Help your reps help you. Congress could, for example, aid student loan borrowers — but only if it knows the issue is important to you. By speaking up, you could encourage changes that have a positive impact on your life and the lives of others.
So stay informed, stay passionate, and stay loud.
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