Tips for Contacting Your Officials by Phone

Voter Info | January 7, 2017

Elected officials work to serve the people. They cannot do their jobs effectively if they do not hear the opinions and interests of the people, especially the citizens in their district.  Often, a small number of phone calls or letters is taken to represent the opinion of an entire constituency.  By contacting your elected officials, you can make a difference by successfully educating and influencing legislators on issues important to you.

For many people, making a phone call is a lot harder than composing a letter or sending off a tweet, but when the phone rings in our legislator’s office, they are obligated to answer. When the phone rings continuously at our legislator’s office regarding a specific issue, the elected official is compelled to take heed and hopefully take action.

The following tips will help make your phone call as productive and painless as possible.

Prepare. Have an outline or a mini-script of what you intend to discuss with the legislator. Do research before, if necessary, so that you know the subject and its relevancy to current legislation.

Remember that telephone calls are usually taken by a staff member, not the elected official. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue to which you wish to comment.

Relax. If you are nervous, relax and treat the phone call like a normal telephone conversation. Do not read verbatim from a prepared script, but ensure that you speak coherently and slowly.

Identify yourself. Identify yourself by giving your name and your address.

Be brief. Clearly and concisely state your position and make your point. Limit your call to one issue. Make a separate phone call for other issues.

Identify the legislation. Make sure you identify the legislation you are discussing by name and number or by its sponsors. If the legislator or staff person is not familiar with the legislation, provide them with a brief summary.

Ask their viewpoint. Ask the legislator their view on the legislation.

Ask for a vote. Ask the legislator for a commitment to vote for or against the legislation.

Don’t argue. It will be ineffective to engage in a longwinded argument with the legislator or staff person about the issue. You will be more likely to get your message across by keeping your conversation clear and succinct. Be courteous, direct and fair.

Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up if you get a busy signal. This simply means that others are getting through with a message as well. Also, don’t be discouraged if you speak with a staff person. Most legislative aides are very reliable in relaying the message and knowledgeable of the issues. Continue the conversation as if they are the legislator.

Follow up. Send a note to the legislator thanking them or their staff for their time. This is a great opportunity to briefly restate your position in writing.

Be positive. Positive phone calls to your legislator can be very helpful. If your official has a good environmental record or has recently supported pro-environmental legislation, a commendation is always received favorably by the legislator.

Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senator’s and/or Representative’s office.

Call the New York State Assembly switchboard at 518-455-410 and the New York State Senate switchboard at 518-455-2800 and ask to speak to your assembly member or senator’s office.

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