I’ve spent a lot of time both here and on social media talking about how you should contact your representatives in the government to make your voice heard. This is true for everyone who has a democratic government because they work for you. You are their boss. If you don’t like what they’re doing, say so. If you want them to vote a certain way, say so. It’s so important to exercise your rights, and this is one of the most important ones. Your representatives can’t do things you want them to (join a coalition, vote a certain way, be for or against a policy, etc.) unless you tell them what you want. This is especially true if your representative seems to think that their constituents would go a different way than how you feel. They might think that 80% of their constituents think a certain way when in reality is 50% because 80% of the people talking to them think that way.
But you might know that you should talk to your representatives but feel uncomfortable about it and don’t know where to start. That’s where this post comes in. I’m going to explain the process for contacting your congressman or senators (but I’m sure this applies to MPs, too) for both email and phone contacting. This way, if you are an introvert who hates talking on the phone *raises hand* you have an option, too. PLUS, at the end of this post, I’ve written out a template that you can use for contacting your representatives. Because the AHCA vote is coming up, I’m using that as the example issue.
Check out the website of the office of the person you’ll be contacting – Every office does things differently. For some offices, the only way to contact them is a contact form on the website. Others might give you a list of staffers to contact depending on the category of the issue that you’re interested in. For example, one staffer might deal with education issues, another health, another overall domestic policy, etc. If you have the option, choose to contact the staffer who deals with the issue you want to talk about.
Research the issue you’ll be talking about – If you’re contacting the office, it’s likely that you already know information about the issue, but you might want to do some extra research just in case. Generally, you’re contacting them because there’s a bill or a proposal coming up that you want them to take a specific stance on. In this case, make sure you know what the bill or proposal is looking to do as a whole as well as some of the smaller details because extra bits are often snuck into these bills.
Research the representative’s view of the issue or similar issues – You don’t want to email them asking them to take a specific stance if they have already said that they would. However, PLEASE feel free to contact them to thank them for taking that specific stance if you want to! We don’t want to only contact our representatives when they’ve messed up. So an important thing to do before you reach out is to see how they already feel about a specific issue, as that should impact what you say.Why You Should Contact Your Representatives & How To Do It Click To Tweet
Take notes on what you’re concerned about and what you’d like your representative to do – When it comes to asking your representative to take a specific view on an issue, you should speak more specifically rather than generally. Why are you for or against this issue? How does this affect your life? How will this affect the other people in your representatives area?
Write a first draft of your email – Don’t send the first draft! Write out your thoughts first before you send it. Make sure that it’s professional and polite; these offices get tons of emails and phone calls every day, and often these staffers are overworked and underpaid. They’re human beings and they’re the ones who deal with disgruntled constituents every day. By the way, you want to make sure that you include where you live in your email so the office knows that you’re actually a constituent.
Walk away from it for a little – Take a little bit to clear your head! Again, don’t send the first draft.
Check your draft again before sending – Check it over again! Did you include everything? Is it professional and polite? Once you’re sure of everything, send it!
Check out the website – This is extremely similar to when you email but also very different. The main thing is that when you call the office, you have a choice of where to call. All congresspeople have a D.C. office and a local office, and senators generally have multiple local offices because they cover the entire state. You can definitely call the D.C. office, but when it comes to big issues (like the AHCA vote), those offices will generally be jam-packed with calls. It might make more sense for you to call one of their local offices so you can definitely get through.
Research the issue, research the representative’s view, take notes – This is all like when you email the office, so you can check out all of that up above.
Call – Tell the office that you don’t need a response, where you live in the representative’s district or state, and then go into why you’re calling. Keep it relatively short and sweet and be nice! Again, you’re likely talking to an over-worked and under-paid staffer who has spent most of the day talking to constituents who are disgruntled about one issue or another.
Seeing this all written out can be overwhelming, so here are some examples of what you can say when contacting your congressperson and/or senators! To illustrate this, I’ve used the upcoming AHCA vote as an example of what you might say when contacting these offices. And by the way, this vote in the Senate will probably be within the next few weeks and Senate republicans don’t necessarily need any democratic or Independent votes, so if you live in a state with republican senators, email or call them because the AHCA will most likely screw over people with pre-existing conditions, on Medicaid, and more.
Email – My name is [your name] and I live in [town, state], and I am contacting you to ask you to vote no on the AHCA. On May 24, the CBO estimated that 14 million more people would be uninsured by 2018 than there are now and 28 million by 2026. This concerns me because [reasons]. Additionally, the AHCA would allow insurers to charge older adults up to 5 times more than young adults and cut Medicaid. It would also let states opt out of certain aspects of the ACA, like maternity care, emergency services, and more. These changes concern me because [reasons]. While the Senate version of the AHCA has not been released yet, the House version will hurt a lot of people, including [person or people you’re concerned about]. Thank you!
Phone – My name is [your name] and I live in [town, state], and I am contacting Senator [name]’s office to ask [him/her] to vote no on the AHCA. I do not need a response from the Senator’s office. On May 24, the CBO estimated that 14 million more people would be uninsured by 2018 than there are now and 28 million by 2026. This concerns me because [reasons]. I am also against the AHCA because [why you care/your personal story]. While the Senate version of the AHCA has not been released yet, the House version will hurt a lot of people, including [person or people you’re concerned about]. Thank you!
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