How to Contact your Representatives
As Idahoans, we come together as a community to hold our members of Congress (MoC) accountable. We have power in numbers. It is our job as their constituents to remind them that they work for us. Recent events suggest that they may be fuzzy on that idea. This means we have to be out there making calls, sending emails, and demanding town halls. We have to stand together, and stand indivisible to make sure that they represent us.
One of the core principles of the Indivisible guide is calling our members of Congress. It is a proven tactic to get results, and it is a quick and easy way that you can make a difference.
We are providing the step-by-step process to make that call.
Who do I call?
Is the Issue:
No matter what part of Idaho you live in, you are represented in the Congress by one Representative and two Senators. Unlike other states with large populations, Idaho only has two Representatives in the House – Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador. Depending on where you live, one of them represents you. Our members of Congress have at least one home office, but they likely have several offices throughout the state. On national issues, you can call whichever representative you’d like.
For statewide issues – issues that only impact the state of Idaho, you are represented by one Representative and one Senator. You can find out who your Representative is, and what district you are in on the Idaho State Legislature’s website
What do I say?
Depending on the amount of time you have, there are two options available when you make a phone call to your member of Congress. Regardless of the option you choose, decide on one option before you make the call so you’ll be prepared. Be clear and be precise no matter which option you choose. Always provide your name and be prepared to provide your address with your zip code as proof that you are within your MoC’s district.
Opinion tally call (approximately 30 seconds)
- With this option, you will provide the staffer just enough information to add you to the total number of constituents who support or oppose a bill. He or she will be polite, and thank you for calling. This is a quick and easy, stress-free call.
- This type of phone call is most effective when there are “mass-call” days. Check with events planned in your area to see if there is a pertinent issue happening on that day (i.e. health care, education) and look for sample scripts or use your own.
- If the staffer does not ask you for your name and zip code at the end of the call, make sure you provide it before hanging up.
- A basic script will work in almost every case with an opinion tally phone call. You can plan what you say before you call to make it easier, but just plan to stay on a single topic.
Hello, my name is [________] and my zip code is [______]. [Allow the staffer a moment to write down your information. I am calling to ask Senator/Rep [___________] to [support/oppose] [bill name]. This matters to me greatly because of [ ______]. Thank you for your time.
Staff Conversation (5 minutes)
- This is a longer conversation, and will require specific information on the issue you are calling about. Be prepared to write down quotes that the staffer provides, including the staffer’s name and direct quotes from the staffer. For your own reference, you may find it easier to record aspects of the conversation to refer back to for your notes.
- The purpose of this type of call is not to persuade staffers to agree with you. If the staffer says that your Representative does agree with your point, or with your position, thank them, but if they do not, be polite and calm and share your story or side of the issue. This is not the time to argue. Pretend that you are representing a business, or an organization, and speak politely and professionally. It is fine to share personally stories if you have them, or explain facts that support your point.
- When you call, state your name and that you are a constituent. Provide your zip code if the staffer requests it, and ask to speak to the staffer who handles the specific issue (i.e. can I speak to the staffer who deals with health care issues?} Write down the name of that staffer for future use and share with your local Indivisible group. Here are a few examples:
- Pose the issue as a a question.
I am calling to ask how Senator/Rep.[_______] plans to vote on the upcoming repeal of the ACA. My family and I depend on the Affordable Care Act for our health care, so this is an important issue to me personally. Can you tell me what my representative’s stance on this issue is?
- If the staffer says the Representative’s stance is the same as yours:
Great. Representative [______] has my thanks for supporting this issue.
- If the staffer says the Representative’s opinion opposes yours:
That’s disappointing to hear. [Be prepared to share facts, a personal story you have in support of your position.] I am part of a local group of constituents and I plan to share Rep.[_____]’s views on this issue with my group.
- If the staffer does not know the Representative’s stance or says that the Representative has no official stance on the issue at this time:
That’s not a problem. Do you have an email address that I can use and follow up with you later to see if Rep [______] has changed their mind? I am part of a local group of constituents that is greatly concerned about this issue so we plan to continue calling and writing to find out about Rep. [_____] stance.
- End the call politely and thank the staffer for their time, even if, and especially 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 try to avoid calling during lunch. During the lunch hour, more constituents are making phone calls which means that fewer staffers are able to answer the phone. The most effective way to make phone calls is to spread them out throughout the day, rather than to call all at once.
- The Congressional Switchboard or any of the phone numbers for our MoC that begin with a 202 area code are in Washington D.C. and are in the Eastern Time Zone, two hours ahead of the Mountain Standard Time Zone. Take that into consideration when planning your call times.
- If the only time you can call is outside of office hours, you can still call. It is more effective to call when someone can take your call, but leaving a message is better than not calling at all.
- If you get a busy signal, try again. And again.
- Call about upcoming issues, and check the legislative agenda to see what bills are planned. Our MoC are most likely to be swayed by our opinions in the one to two weeks leading up to the vote for the bill.
Every phone call you make is having an effect, and you are making a difference. Calling our members of Congress is easy. Remember, they work for us. They answer to us. And every time you pick up the phone and hold them accountable, ask for their stance on issues, express your personal stories, you make our government a little more transparent – you make Washington a little more “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.”