Elected officials at the local, state, and federal level are responsible for representing the interests of their constituents. In order to know your interests, your elected officials must hear from you!
Tips for calling your elected officials
(here is an example based on a made up bill)
Calling your elected officials is another effective way to share your views on issues and legislation. While you will generally not be able to speak directly with your U.S. Representative or Senators by telephone, their staff will note your comments and share them with the legislator.
If you want to your senators or representative to support or oppose a particular bill, check Congress.gov to see if he or she is already a sponsor or cosponsor of the legislation before calling. If you support the bill and he or she already sponsored or co-sponsored it, you can call and thank them. If you support a bill that they didn’t sponsor or co-sponsor, you can ask them to co-sponsor it and vote for it. If you oppose the bill and they didn’t so-sponsor it, thank them for not co-sponsoring and let them know you want them to vote against it.
The same general tips when you write your U.S. Representative or Senators apply when you call:
Try to limit your call to less than three minutes. Any longer and you may find that you’re asked to hold so the staff can answer other calls. If you want to express your concerns in more detail, you might want to write an email instead of calling.
As with your letters, avoid sarcastic, vulgar, or threatening language on the phone.
Offer Your Name and Address
Do not be surprised if you are asked for your name and address, as elected officials sometimes try to respond to phone messages with letters.
Follow up with an Email
As a phone call limits the amount you can say, it is often a good idea to follow up with an email so that you may cite facts and offer alternative solutions for the issue. Here are tips on writing your follow-up email.
It is expected that constituents will call just before a vote on a bill that is important to them. If you are a researcher or other professional, it is appropriate to call to let your elected representatives know about the work that you do that is relevant to their votes. For these kinds of calls, make sure you ask for the appropriate L.A. (Legislative Assistant) or L.C. (Legislative Consultant) who works on the type of issue you want to discuss (such as health, the environment, foreign affairs, children’s issues, etc). Keep your call as short as possible, aiming for about 5-10 minutes. As a patient with health problems that could be affected by legislation, it is similarly appropriate to let the health staffer of your elected representatives know about your expertise and how they can better represent your interests. Again, be as brief as possible, aiming for 5 minutes if possible, and don’t go through a long list of medical problems and experiences.
If you are a researcher or other expert who is trying to make a “get acquainted call,” try to time it to coincide with less busy times in Washington, such as recess (usually around Federal holidays and during the month of August). Mondays and Fridays also tend to be less busy, since hearings and votes are usually held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
Finding phone numbers
Click here to find phone numbers for your U.S. Congressional representatives at the Senate and House of Representatives websites. Or click the following links if you are unsure of your Representative or Senators.
You may also be connected through the Capitol operator by dialing (202) 224-3121.
You can share your views with the President by calling White House staff at (202) 456-1414.
Contacting state and local officials
The tips listed are also useful when calling your state and local elected officials. You can find out how to contact your state and local officials about state and local issues at https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. State government directories can also be found on the Library of Congress website at http://www.loc.gov/rr/news/stategov/stategov.html. Remember that state and local officials may have only one staff person to help with phone calls, so be brief.