by Countable | 4.21.17
No matter where you are on the political spectrum, we're living in a rare time of keen interest in government. Couple that with the technological disintegration of barriers to contacting lawmakers, and it’s understandable that Congressional offices are inundated with communications: torrents of email, ever-ringing phones, and social media accounts overflowing with contacts and comments.
Amidst this flood, how do you get your message heard? What actually works? Here are seven tips to getting your message in front of your representatives in Washington.
1) Be Strategic
Let's be clear: you have far more sway with your own representatives than with any others. Congressional offices are so overwhelmed with communications, they pay little attention to messages from people outside their districts. So start by homing in on the Member of Congress who represents your district, and your state's two Senators. This happens automatically when you join Countable.
2) Consider the Issue
The most effective way to communicate with Congress often depends on the issue at hand. Trying to influence the vote on a particular bill? Lawmakers often track their constituents’ opinions with a count of positive and negative communications. A phone call becomes a simple tick in a spreadsheet. Try going to the bill’s page on Countable and casting your vote by clicking ‘yea’ or ‘nay,’ and writing your opinion. Messages sent through Countable are delivered electronically to your lawmaker using technology that makes it easy and quick for their staff to process them.
Have a an issue you’d like to send a message about that is not tied to a particular vote? Try reaching out to your representatives through social media. Lawmakers’ staff pay very close attention to Twitter and Facebook, and often respond directly to constructive conversations. You can also send messages to Congress directly from Countable. Click the “Take Action” button on any article and you can choose between calling, sending an electronic message, or even recording a video and tagging your lawmaker in it.
Have a personal or local concern you want help with? Skip Washington and call your representative’s district office. The local staff is much more involved in “constituent services,” such as helping people straighten out problems with social security, immigration, veterans affairs and other large federal agencies.
3) Be Clear
Whether it’s a message, a video or a phone call, stating your thoughts in plain, clear language is essential to being heard. Start by stating a few key facts: your name, your address or zip code, why you’re reaching out. Remember, it is critical that you speak in respectful terms -- nothing will get your message thrown out faster than engaging in personal attacks or insults.
4) Get Creative
Sometimes the best way to capture your lawmaker’s attention is through indirect communication. Start a discussion among friends and neighbors on Twitter, making sure you include your representative’s name on every message. Start a neighborhood Facebook group and invite your lawmaker to participate in it. Gather people together to record a video on Countable, and upload it to your Congressperson’s accounts. Do all of the above! And take every opportunity to state your opinion on Countable’s bill and article pages. The more you speak, the more you’ll be heard.
5) Get Old Fashioned
Many Members of Congress still say the most valuable messages they receive are hand-written on paper. Regardless of the issue, a good, old fashioned letter can express the time and effort you’ve taken to express your opinion.
There are a couple of drawbacks to snail mail: they take a lot of effort on your part, and on Congressional staffers. Letters must be sorted, logged and entered into their tracking system -- and that can take days. So consider writing when you have a heart-felt, personal story to tell. You might find that your representative gives you a call, or reads your letter on the floor during a session of Congress.
6) Forge a Personal Connection
Don’t forget -- your representatives aren’t always in Washington, they’re often right near you! And nothing gives you more influence in the long term than building a personal relationship. Check your lawmaker’s website or give the local office a call and find out when the town hall meeting or local media event is scheduled. Introduce yourself, and ask for an in-person meeting. Invite your Member of Congress to your neighborhood picnic or church event. This strategy takes time, of course; your lawmaker represents hundreds of thousands of other people as well. But over time, s/he will come to know you -- making your opinion much more valuable.
7) Be Persistent
Whatever method you choose, don’t stop. Staying involved is the best way to be sure that you’re ready when your most important issues come up. Keeping in regular touch with representatives makes it much more likely that you’ll be heard when speaking out is most critical. As we say at Countable, vote every day!
-- Andrea Seabrook
Don't wait! Take Action and contact your Reps!
Written by Countable
Stop the foolish mission of "repealing" the ACA. I say foolish because doing so undermines YOU. People need healthcare. People recognize when you're taking a life necessity away from them. This is the time when you act on behalf of the people who elected you, or on behalf of the big doners you're beholding to. We're watching. Fix the ACA.
"No matter where you are on the political spectrum, we're living in a rare time of keen interest in government. Couple that with the technological disintegration of barriers to contacting lawmakers, and it’s understandable that Congressional offices are inundated with communications: torrents of email, ever-ringing phones, and social media accounts overflowing with contacts and comments. Amidst this flood, how do you get your message heard? What actually works?" Money. Money works. It's the only thing my representatives listen to.
It is clear to me that my "representatives" do not represent me. I am not a middle aged, white man of a particular faith so apparently my opinions don't really matter. I will repeat them nevertheless. You are not pro-life, you are anti-abortion. Pro-life indicates that you value all life and you clearly do not. You are willing to take away funding for programs that help children thrive, you seem to think that certain people don't have the right to marry who they love and for some reason you cannot wrap your mind around the fact that belonging to a particular religion does not make someone evil. You were elected to represent all of the people in your district. Not just the ones that look like you.
Do not repeal the ACA and leave Social Security and Medicare alone please.
Trying to repeal and replace the ACA is not the answer. Please fix what's missing in the one we have. What's being proposed is going to leave millions without coverage.
I am impressed with my State Senators' responses to my comments. Thank you, Countable, for making the communication possible!
Please watch this video by Brave New Films. https://www.facebook.com/bravenewfilms/videos/10154290370512016/Then please pass bills to fix the Bureau of Prisons policies around compassionate release of prisoners. Quality of life in America is being reduced by the lack of compassion in government and ruling bodies such as the BOP. Prisoners are people and deserve to be treated with dignity, no matter their crime. If guards or police, military personnel or ice employees think that prisoners, immigrants or protesters are less deserving of their respect than anyone else then we need a massive reeducation of those allowed to serve the public in these capacities. They need to be held to a standard of humane and respectful treatment. Please take this issue seriously and speak out for the rights of prisoners. The families of prisoners suffer so much from knowing that prison guards abuse their powers and prison administrators are stingy with giving families a chance to be with their loved ones when they are dying. God help this country, which right now, is being dominated by macho egotistical responses when heart-centered, compassionate, creative, cooperative, expansive leadership is needed. We need new conversations in Congress, in Universities, in boardrooms, in living rooms, in town halls, in communities around who we want to be as a nation and what we stand for. Those conversations have to be based on something other than fear, because we have had those for decades. Fear begets the patriarchal response of domination and control like in the useless war on drugs. We need conversations that lead to new ways of being in the world, interacting with each other and addressing our problems. These conversations are happening all over the world, but somehow they never reach the level of those in power here. Please do your part to make change possible. Thank you.
Wish all the representatives would listen to the constitution. Work together to help the most individuals of our country.
Stop eliminating regulations. They are for a reason and keep the EPA strong . If we invest in renewable energy we won't need to protect our oil fields over sea. Just think of the lives that could be saved.
It is all about getting re-elected. Every action on the floor of Congress, every speech and post, and of course every fund-raising letter and email is carefully calculated to that one goal. Gerrymandering, fund-raising and avoiding town halls where they might be pictured as less than perfect, all part of the calculation. My own Rep. Pat Meehan would not tell his constituents how he would have voted on repealing the ACA until he no longer actually had to cast a vote. Such a profile in courage.
My reps are working hard to fight Trump's regressive agenda. I would like to thank Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell, and Adam Smith for their efforts on our behalf. Keep fighting! We're with you!
Say no to repealing ACÁ open the market so more people can sign up don't let Trump kill it
Do you think or believe any of our reps have any idea what we, their constituents, think, want, need? Do you think or believe that any one of them knows what's in your heart? How many of them actually care? Whether it's our failing healthcare system, our financially debilitating educational loan debacle , our diminishing farm lands, our failing educational system. It all continues to get worse while they get their jollies finding new ways to forward their own agendas while stymying others. Republicans, Democrats, they're all the same: Dysfunctional, greedy, pathological under achievers. The only thing I could ask is that we all be bold enough to make a major change and vote everyone of them out of office. They all think they're indispensable and irreplaceable. You all say you want change, well there's one sure way to do it...VOTE!!!!!!
Dear Representatives, I am writing to express my strong support for two federal programs that fund the activities of the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS). Specifically, AIIS receives funding from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the Department of State and from the Department of Education's Title VI international programs. These very modest appropriations support a great range of activities that include language training for US scholars in critical languages of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and research programs that promote international understanding and goodwill. The Trump Administration has proposed to severely cut these programs in both Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018. The survival of AIIS depends on the continuation of both programs. Please do all you can to see that both continue to receive at least their present level of funding. As you know, strategic ties with India are growing and international cooperation on issues of trade, terrorism and security are more important than ever. Now is not the time to cut off academic contacts. Instead the US should be facilitating more interactions between US scholars, students and educational institutions with their counterparts in the world’s largest democracy. These programs not only benefit our entire country but also the students, teachers, and colleges and universities in New York. Again, I urge you in the strongest terms: please do all you can to see that the international exchange programs of the Departments of State and Education receive level funding in both FY 2017 and 2018. Thank you for your attention to this matter. Sincerely, Alexa
Going birding tomorrow with Rutland County Audubon.. Citizen science in action.. Please keep the environment as a high priority!!! EPA and Science so very important!! Thanks for listening..
No matter how an individual contacts a congressman it is their responsibility to respond.
excellent points all
I get the same, fairly short form letter from my representative, Dr. Neal Dunn, that does not address in any way the issue I was contacting him about. Marco Rubio is only marginally better. He has more than one form letter and he mixes them up a little.
I live in Iowa where both senators are Republicans (Grassley and Ernst) and there is Representatives Steven King. What is happening in Iowa is mirroring what's happening in Washington. They blindly support Trump and his destructive policies, so I feel like "What's the point?" When I do reach out, they come back with boilerplate replies.
I do believe that the public engagement right now is a positive force. The big problem is that with house republicans their districts are highly partisan and have been gerrymandered to help keep them republican. So these representatives believe that they are insulated democrats and they only need to worry about a more right wing candidate may challenge them. Right Jack