There is a lot going on in this great country right now and many people are disillusioned with our government. It’s understandable, lobbyists and private interest groups with gobs of money seem impossible to compete with, but disengaging from the system is not the answer. Nor is turning to Facebook or Twitter as the sole way to voice your disapproval.
You do have the power to shape your government, not only with your vote but with your voice. So long as your voice is aimed in the right direction. Our elected senators and representatives are in place to represent their constituents. Here is how to contact your federal, state and local representatives.
Step 1: Figure out who your representatives are
Figuring out who you’re going to call is step one. Is your issue a federal, state or local matter? You can find contact information for representatives using the following links:
- Federal: The President and Vice President
- Federal: Representatives in the House and Senate
- State: governors and legislators
- Local: mayors, county executives, and other local officials
It’s usually a good idea to find your representatives’ positions on the issue before you call. This can be a little tricky. The Countable app (Web, iOS and Android), which I’ll talk more about below, works well for Congress. For other representatives, you might have to parse their websites, social media, or trusted news sources to get a feel for their stance.
Step 2: Know what you’re going to say
If you’re calling your rep with something to say, it’s best if it comes from the heart and in your own words. If you struggle to find the words or need a little help with what you should include, the following basic script will help you structure your statement:
- Introduce yourself: “Hello, my name is [your name].”
- Let them know they represent you: “I’m a constituent of [representatives name]”
- Let them know the issue you’re calling about: “I’m calling about [issue]”
- Let them know your ask: “I’m calling to ask him/her to [vote against/for the issue, or some other action]”
- Tell them why it matters to you: “This issue really matters to me because [tell them why]”
- Conclude: “It’s very important that [representative] act quickly to [repeat your ask]”
- Use your voting power: “[representative] will lose my vote if he/she [goes against ask]”
Step 3: Call your representative
Time to put the rubber to the road. Start with your representatives local or district office. You might get a real person on the rep’s staff, or you might get a voicemail. Either way, share your message. Stay confident and keep it concise.
Your representative might want to know that the call is coming from one of their constituents so don’t be surprised if they ask for your address or zip code. They want to qualify whether or not their position will impact the way you vote.
Countable: An app that makes it easy to keep up with and contact Congress
Understanding bills that are going before Congress usually requires quite a bit of specialized knowledge. Countable explains each bill that the House and Senate is voting on in plain English.
You need a Facebook account to use the service. Countable checks your Facebook profile information to determine your name, location, and your national representatives. It then shows you the next piece of legislation your representatives are expected to vote on, with a short summary of the bill and a list of pros and cons.
You then get a chance to submit your vote on the bill by selecting a “yea” or “nay”. This process also automatically sends an e-mail to your representatives if you’d like. You can also see more information on each bill including voting activity, costs, links to media coverage, and the full text of the bill.
Countable then keeps track of how your representatives vote on bills compared to the way you wanted them to vote, giving you a “compatibility ranking” for each one.
The Countable app is available by Web, iOS and Android.