How to Call Your Representatives

So you want to call Congress.

Great! Calling your representatives can be a fulfilling–and more importantly, effective–way to make your voice heard to the government.

Or maybe, more likely, you have doubts about calling your representatives. What if they don’t listen, or if they don’t answer, or if they laugh in your face for trying to persuade a Republican? What is this calling anyway–doesn’t everyone use Facebook Messenger nowadays? These are all natural concerns to have, but calling your representatives doesn’t have to be an ordeal. When you call your congressperson’s office (you can find their phone numbers here), you’ll probably either get to talk to one of their staffers or leave a voicemail. Getting calls that criticize the official’s position on an issue is nothing new to them, so there’s no reason to be nervous. They’ll take your name, confirm you’re one of their constituents, and you’ll deliver your message. That’s all there is to it.

If you’re still unconvinced, this insightful article in The New Yorker might change your mind.

It would be good to know that [calling your representatives] will succeed, but it suffices to know that they could. And at this particular moment, when our First Amendment freedoms are existentially threatened—when the President himself has, among other things, sought to curb press access and to discredit dissent—we also act on them to insist that we can.

MIT Democrats has organized several “phonebanks,” or groups of people calling Congress about particular issues, over the past few months. Here are some of the questions we’re asked most often about calling your reps, so you can begin making calls, join one of our events, or even start a calling group.

Does my call really matter?

Yes! If you’re a constituent, the staff of the representative you’re calling will make a note of the opinion you expressed. Even if they’re just tallying that you made a call for/against a certain issue, they will take note of the fact that you called.

How much should I say?

We provide scripts as a starting point for your messages, but you don’t have to read the whole script–in fact, sometimes staffers will simply cut you off because they’ve already noted what side of the issue you’re on. If you have a personal experience relating to the issue, it’s best to include that.

What should I do if the line is busy?

Call multiple times at different times of day if the line is busy, and check the representative’s website for all of their office phone numbers to try. Sometimes their D.C. office will have continuously busy lines, but their state and local offices will be less busy.

Should I leave a voicemail?

It’s better if you reach a staffer because when an office is receiving a high volume of calls, they may not have time to process the voicemails in time. That said, at other times it’s definitely worth leaving a message, especially if you can’t reach them on any of their available lines.

If I’m not a US citizen, under 18, or not in the official’s district, should I call?

You’re welcome to try calling them, but you probably shouldn’t expect the representative’s staff to count your call. They generally prioritize calls from their own constituents.

How effective is it to call Republicans?

Calling your Republican representatives (provided you’re in their constituency) is an effective way to try to sway their votes. We stand the best chance by pushing moderate Republicans.

How effective is it to call Democrats?

If the representative you’re calling already agrees with you on an issue, you may think that it’s not important to call them. But it can be just as helpful at times, because it’s good to let them know that constituents are on board with the actions they’re taking and counteract the negative calls they’re inevitably receiving.

How many times should I call?

It’s best to call once per issue (leave a message or talk to a staffer).

Should I call about multiple issues?

Yes! Call separately for each issue to have the best chance of your calls being counted correctly.

What personal information should I give?

Provide whatever information is necessary for the staffers to verify that you live in the congressperson’s district–i.e., at least your name, an address, and a ZIP code.

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