Democracy 101

A Guide to Calling Your Representative

You probably know that you have an elected official responsible for decisions that affect your day-to-day life, but do you know how to get in touch with that person? Do you know who that person is?

It may be obvious to some, but 77 percent of a sample of 1,000 DC residents in a Benenson Strategy Group poll could not name one of their senators.

The first thing you need to do is decide who you should call. Most people have two different types of representatives at the federal level: representatives and senators. If you wish to comment on general issues, either of these will work. Otherwise, if your comments are in reference to a bill specifically, consider which chamber the bill is in when making your decision.

By this point, you’re going to want to know the name of your representative. The website https://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ is a great way to find them- simply enter your zip code and your rep’s name will appear. Technically, you can reach out to any member of Congress, but you generally won’t get a response if you contact somebody who doesn’t represent you. Each state has two senators. In South Carolina, these senators are Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tim Scott (R-SC).  

The final step before calling is to prepare what you are going to say. Believe it or not, this will probably be the hardest part. It’s important to call in reference to as specific of an issue as possible. In other words, avoid jumping around to multiple issues or being unclear about your stance on something. 

For example, I called Senator Graham’s office to advocate for the introduction of gun violence legislation in light of the Las Vegas Shooting. 

In addition to your central message, there are a few other pieces of information you should mention as well. When you call, be sure to state your name, your zip code, and whether or not you would like a response from the official.

Now that you have the information you need, it’s time to do what you set out for: make the call. The easiest way to reach the proper office is to dial the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Follow the automated prompts and you’ll either be connected to an assistant to leave your thoughts or you’ll be prompted to leave a voice message. Don’t go overboard–it’s OK to be passionated about a topic, but personal attacks and insults won’t go very far. 

IN SUMMARY:

1. Go to https://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ to find your rep or Google your senator.

2. Prepare what you want to say, taking care to include your name and zip code.

3. Dial the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and follow the prompts.

4. Reap the benefits of a democratic system.

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