Contact Your Elected Officials
Updated: Apr 26, 2020
Democracy doesn't work unless we use it. Consider adopting these best practices in making your voice heard.
Know and Follow Your Electeds
There are 100 U.S. senators (2 per state) and 435 U.S. representatives serving in the United States Congress. Three of these 535 people are here to listen to your concerns! If you don't know who your senator or representative is, you can find them here:
Follow Yours on Social Media
It's also a good idea to learn who the members of your local government are, if you don't already know. Once you've done your research, consider following your electeds on social media for an easy way to keep tabs.
Which Method of Contact is Best?
Experienced staffers agree that calling your elected’s office is much more effective than emailing or writing. Congress members receive thousands of emails and letters a week, and will often group them together. But when calling, you will typically reach a staffer who will note your comments and tally responses.
Calling My Elected Official
As mentioned, when you call your elected's office, a staffer will most likely answer your call. If not, you'll be directed to voicemail, where you can leave a message instead. (We recommend you follow up later until you are able to speak to a person)
Call the district office. DC lines are busier and you're more likely to be sent to voicemail. You can find your elected's district office info on their legislative webpage.
Be civil, and keep it short and sweet. Keep in mind that the person listening to your call is a staffer and has many other calls to answer. Your call shouldn't take more than a couple minutes, and you should use a polished and professional tone. (That's not to say that you need to hide your emotions about significant issues. Just keep it clean!)
Be direct with your ask. Be clear with what you are asking your elected official to do, and why you want them to do it. If you're asking them to vote in favor of or against a bill, clearly state so.
Follow up. You can call back next week, or even tomorrow if you feel like it. We especially recommend following up if your call went to voicemail.
Tips for Calling Elected Officials for Shy or Anxious Folks
We get it, picking up the phone and calling a politician’s office can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time. (We’ve been there too!) Here are some steps you can take to make this experience a little smoother.
Schedule your call time for yourself. Calls only take a few minutes, but it can be helpful to prepare, and blocking off time can keep you from putting it off.
Write down your script. Writing down what you plan on saying will ensure that you don’t forget any important details.
You will likely either be directed to voicemail or chat with a staffer. They’ll be polite, but won’t have much time to talk, which makes a script even more helpful! Remember, this person does not have the time or energy to judge you if you stumble, get shaky, or use lots of ers and ums.
Say thanks, and hang up! Remember to follow up and encourage fellow constituents to call, too.
Writing or Emailing My Elected Official
Emailing your electeds is very similar to writing to your electeds, sans stamp, obviously, though letter writing tends to be more effective. Representatives receive fewer individualized letters compared to e-mails, petitions, or form letters. Either way — by snail mail or the world wide web — consider including these four components in your message:
Who you are. Be sure to identify yourself as a constituent and highlight any particular qualifications you have in addressing your topic (such as professional, educational, or volunteer experience). If you don't, that's fine, too! Always include your contact information (address, email, and phone number) in your letter.
State your purpose. Make it clear from the start what specific action you would like to see taken from your representative, whether that's a vote on a certain legislative bill or a push to introduce a new act or regulation. Check out our legislation watchlist to familiarize yourself with the most pressing environmental legislation in Congress right now.
Make it personal. It's important to address why this action is important to you and how you will be directly impacted by it. This is what helps your letter stand out from other petitions or form letters your elected is receiving.
Know your facts. Supplement your position on issues with facts, and direct your elected to reputable sources to learn more.
@ing My Elected Official
Mentioning or replying to your electeds on social media serves as a nice cherry on top if you're already contacting them through a more secure way. It's virtually impossible for electeds to verify constituents online, however, using social media to direct attention to an elected official's actions and/or supplement your message is a great way to get other constituents involved with a common goal or attract media attention.
If you do choose to @ your elected, remember to keep it civil! It's not cool to subject anyone to verbal abuse or harassment, and these types of comments are typically removed.
Bonus: Talk to the Press
If you're so inclined, getting in touch with local news is a great way to further amplify your message, rally support from fellow constituents, and put pressure on an elected official or give them praise. This can take the shape of a letter to the editor or an op-ed.