It's OK to Contact Your Reps BEFORE You Know What to Say
A headline scrolls up on my feed. It is sensational. It makes my blood boil. It makes me reach for the phone, ready to call my representative and give them a piece of my mind.
I pull up my representative's phone number, but I hesitate. Is the policy still up for debate? Were there fiscal ramifications that didn't make the headline? What if there's something I'm missing? Ugh, I'm going to have to do that research... later.
I set the phone down. At least, I used to. Now, I take a deep breath and call with my questions.
Tax dollars fund not only representatives' salaries, but funding for their staff as well. While volunteers can work at representatives' offices, chances are your call will be answered by someone who is getting paid by you, a taxpayer. So don't feel like the burden of policy research falls solely on you, especially in an area that is outside your own area of expertise or education.
Here are some sample questions you can use before you know exactly what to say about an issue:
Hi, I'm a constituent from [ZIP code] and I saw an article about [issue/headline] on [publication/news source/platform] just now. I'm in a hurry and only have a few minutes, but I want you to know that I care about this. What is happening on this issue right now and how can I get involved?
Hi, I'm a Colorado voter and I'm concerned about [issue]. What is this office doing about this issue? Are there other people or organizations I should contact who might be interested in my perspective on this?
If you get an answering machine or voice mail:
Hi, my name is [name] from [ZIP code] and I'd like a call back at [phone number] regarding your stance on [issue]. This issue is important to me and I'd like the most current information on where it stands now and how I can get involved. Again, my phone number is [phone number].
Want to completely silence and stun a staffer? Give a representative that you are proud of a call and say, "Hey, I appreciate the work you've done on issues that I care about. How can I help?"
More experienced staffers will be ready with news from their representative, questions about your interests and ways to reach you for calls to action. Others may need to check with their representative and get back to you. It's a good idea to say you'll call back in a week -- and then do that. You'll probably have a fresh set of questions to ask!
So don't hesitate, and don't put down the phone. Make the call and ask your questions with open ears and an open mind.