Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How to Call Your Legislators

Mark Jahnke used to work on Capitol Hill as the person in charge of all the incoming phone calls to his Senator's office. A friend of mine (thanks, Vaughn!) sent me Mark’s insider tips to make calling your reps easier and quicker. Here they are:



1. Give your name, city, and zip code, and say "I don't need a response." That way, they can quickly confirm you are a constituent, and they can tally you down without taking the time to input you into a response database. 

2. PLEASE ONLY CALL YOUR OWN REPRESENTATIVES! Your tally will not be marked down unless you can rattle off a city and zip from the state, or are calling from an in-state area code. I know you really want to give Mitch McConnell a piece of your mind, but your call will be ignored unless you can provide a zip from Kentucky. And don't try to make this up; I could often tell who was lying before I even picked up the phone from the caller ID. Exceptions to this are things like Paul Ryan's ACA poll. 

3. State the issue, state your position. "I am opposed to a ban on Muslims entering the US." "I am in favor of stricter gun control legislation including background checks." "I am in favor of the Affordable Care Act." That's it. That's all we write down so we can get a tally of who is in favor, who is against. It doesn't matter WHY you hold that opinion. The more people calling, the less detail they write down. Help them out by being simple and direct. 

4. Please be nice! The people answering the phones on Capitol Hill already had the hardest job in DC and some of the lowest pay as well, and for a month now their jobs have become absolute murder, with nonstop calls for 9 hours every day. Thank them for their hard work answering the phones, because without them our Senators could not represent us.

What does this sound like?

"Hi, my name is Mark, I'm a constituent from Seattle, zip code 98***, I don't need a response. I am opposed to any ban on Muslims entering the United States and I encourage the Senator to please oppose implementation of any such ban. Thanks for your hard work answering the phones!"

This is how I wish every caller had phrased their message. It makes it easier for the people answering the phones and takes less time and emotion than a long script. I know that you want to say why, but keeping it short and sweet helps the office answer more calls per hour, meaning more people get heard. The bigger the tally, the more powerful our voice. Also, when you're reading off the same script as 100 other callers that day... well...they can tell.

Pick one issue each day, use this format (I am in favor of _____ or I oppose ______), and call your 2 Senators and 1 Representative on their DC and State Office lines, and you'll be on your way to being heard.

Rick Lamplugh writes to protect wildlife and preserve wildlands. He lives near Yellowstone’s north gate and is just finishing a new book about Yellowstone’s grandeur and controversy. He is the author of the Amazon bestseller In the Temple of Wolves. Available as eBook or paperback. Or as a signed copy from Rick.

Photo of interior of Montana’s state capitol building by Rick Lamplugh

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