The content below contains a friendly amendment of the “How to Contact Your Representatives” resource published by Indivisible Austin:
Contacting Your Representatives:
Calling members of Congress is a tactic that is proven to work. It takes as little as 30 seconds to make a call and make a difference. Below is a step-by-step guide for making your first call.
Who should I contact?
Is the issue:
In the U.S. Congress, you are represented by one Representative and two Senators. Ohio residents can search for information at the United States House of Representatives website, and residents in AHEAD districts can find their representatives and associated contact information by visiting the U.S. Congress page of the AHEAD website.
At the state level, you are represented by one state Representative and one state Senator. Ohio residents can search for information at the Ohio House of Representatives website, and residents in AHEAD districts can find their representatives and associated contact information by visiting the Ohio Legislature page of the AHEAD website.
What do I say?
You could make two types of calls depending on how much time you have. The first, the opinion tally, takes less than a minute and does not require discussing the details. The second, the conversation with a staffer, is more involved. In both cases, pick one issue that you want to address in this call. If you muddle together multiple issues, the staffer will have to make a judgement on how to tally up your opinion. Be clear and precise.
Opinion tally call (30 seconds)
- In an opinion tally call, you give the staffer just enough information to add you to the total number of constituents who support or oppose a bill. The staffer will likely be polite and professional, making this call easy and stress-free.
- We are most effective when we all call about the same issue. See if there is a current call to action script available on the AHEAD website Take Action or Act Now! pages. If so, use that script (or create your own).
- Do not end the call without making sure that they have your name and your zip code. In some cases, they may also ask for your street address to verify that you are a constituent.
- This basic script will work for almost all cases. You can write out exactly what you want to say before calling to make it easier:
Hello, my name is _____ and my zip code is ______. (pause to allow staffer to write this down). I am calling to ask [Senator/Rep] ______ to [support/oppose] [bill name]. This matters to me greatly because of ______. Thank you for your time.
- Thank the staffer, using their name if you remember it.
Conversation with a staffer (5 minutes)
- Be prepared to write down the name of the person you talk to and any specific information they provide, including direct quotes.
- Be polite and calm through the entire interaction. Do not assume that the staffer disagrees with you or will try to argue with you. Assume good faith, and behave appropriately.
- Call, state your name and that you are a constituent, and ask to speak to the staffer who handles the specific issue. Write down the name for future use and to share with the group. Here are a few examples:
Can I speak to the staffer who handles criminal justice issues?
I would like to speak to the staffer who works on health issues.
Can you confirm the name of the staffer who covers immigration?
(And a good catchall) Can I speak to the staffer who works on legislative issues?
- Frame your issue as a question.
I am calling to ask how Rep. ____ plans to vote on the upcoming repeal of the Affordable Care Act. My family depends on the ACA for my father’s cancer treatments, so this issue is very important to me. What is the representative’s stance on this issue?
- If the staffer says their opinion matches yours:
Great. Representative ____ has my thanks for supporting this cause.
- If the staffer says their opinion opposes yours:
That’s disappointing to hear. [Share facts, statistics, or a personal story to support your opinion.] I am part of a local organized group of constituents and I shall be sharing Rep. ___’s views with them.
- If the staffer says that they do not know or that the member of Congress has no official stance at this time:
Do you have an email address that I can use to follow up later to see if Rep ____ has changed their mind? I am part of a local group of constituents that cares greatly about this matter so we will be calling and writing to find out more about Rep ___’s stance.
- End the call politely, thanking the staffer for taking the time to work with you, even if you do not agree with them.
Thank you for your time, [staffer’s name].
When do I call?
- Call on weekdays during office hours (usually 8-5) and preferably not during lunch time. During lunch time, more of us are making calls and fewer staffers are available to answer the phone. We can be most effective by spreading our calls out throughout the day.
- If you have to call outside of office hours, you may have the opportunity to leave a voicemail. It is not as effective, but you are still making a difference.
- If you get a busy signal, try again straight away.
- Call about upcoming issues. Many bills are proposed at the beginning of a legislative session, but your lawmaker cares most about your opinion during the week or two leading up to the vote for the bill.