Calling Congress Is Easier Than You Think — Here’s How To Do It

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
A lot has been happening the last few weeks, and if you care about certain issues, you may be trying to figure out how to get more politically involved.
One thing that you probably keep hearing is that you should call your elected officials. And yes, we understand that sounds a little bit scary. But honestly, it's easier than you think. Calling is the most powerful ways to put pressure on your representatives — even more than social media, email, or snail mail.
Why? It shows commitment to a cause. And representatives know that if they don't hear the concerns of their constituents, it could impact their ability to get reelected.
So, if you want to pick up the phone, we've laid down step-by-step instructions for calling your representatives. We even included a script!

Okay, to be honest, I don't know who my representative is.

Believe us, you're not alone. Many people don't know who their senators and representatives are. And that's okay! You can go here or here and input your zip code or state; it will tell you who your elected officials are. Once you have the names, you can find their contact information here and here.

Thanks! Now, how do I contact them?

The easiest thing is to call their offices directly.
But if for some reason you are unable to do that, you also have the option of dialing 202-224-3121. This number will direct you to the Capitol switchboard. When you call, ask to be connected to your senator or representative. The operator will direct your call to their office.

Sounds good. What happens when I call?

A legislative assistant will answer the phone. They'll ask if you need a response, and it's better if you say you don't. That way they can tally you down without having to go through the extra step of adding you to a response database.
The most important part is to be clear about what issue you're calling about. Why you support or oppose certain legislation is irrelevant. The more people that call the representative's office, the less detail the assistants will write down. Getting straight to the point makes things easier for everyone — including those who are waiting for their phone calls to be picked up.
Here's an example of what you could say, modeled after a post by Facebook user Mark Jahnke, who used to do this job at Capitol Hill.
"Hello, my name is Jane Smith. I'm a constituent from New York, zip code 10001. I don't need a response. I am concerned about the partial government shutdown and I strongly encourage the senator to please vote for a funding package that solves this situation. Thank you for your hard work!"
If you're shy, tools like 5 Calls could help you out. You just need to provide your zip code, select the issue that you care about, and 5 Calls will provide you a script to read.
Pretty easy, right?

Awesome! Is there anything else I should know?

Yes. Call only your representatives! Maybe you really, really want to speak with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, but please don't call the people that don't represent you. Unless you can provide a zip code that proves you're a constituent, your call will be pretty much ignored and not tallied down. This will also help create a backlog of calls coming from constituents from that district, and we want to make sure their concerns are heard.
If you stick to calling only your representatives, and keep it short and direct, it's better for everyone. That way the office will answer more calls, which translates into more people being heard. In the end, the bigger the total number of callers, the more your representatives need to pay attention.
This story was originally published on January 30, 2017.
Related Video:

More from US News

R29 Original Series