Advice on contacting your representatives from a former Congressional staffer

Writer and editor Emily Ellsworth has been earning a lot of attention for her incredibly helpful Twitter thread on how best to contact your Congressional representatives. A registered Republican who campaigned and voted for Hillary Clinton, Ellsworth has formerly worked for both Utah Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart. Here's her advice:

You can also hear Ellsworth talk more about her experiences on this episode of This American Life.

[Photo: Martin Falbisoner, CC BY-SA 3.0]

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  1. xkot says:

    This woman is a hero and a patriot, and I hope people are listening to her and will act. I wrote exactly one email (about Net Neutrality) to my senators during the Obama years, so I'm part of the problem. And I know better. I've known a couple of congressional staffers, and they corroborated what Ellsworth says: our Congressional representatives DO listen to letters and calls. Even 20 of them saying the same thing can make a difference. Write with passion, but avoid insults.

    I intend to get more involved. I beg the rest of you to do the same. The soul of the nation hangs in the balance.

  2. Always call first and follow up with a written letter pertaining to the particular issue. I have received dozens of responses over the years to my letters, it works.

  3. shortly after obama nominated garland for the supreme court i called both my senators' offices. i live in texas and both are republicans so i was explaining to the staffer that it was important that president obama have his nomination acted on and how unprecedented it would be to go a year without even giving the nominee a hearing. cornyn's staffer was polite but formal and explained that while they hated to gainsay a constituent that cornyn could not agree that it would be in any way unprecedented or wrong to wait until the next president was elected. the staffer for cruz, on the other hand, let me get halfway through my pitch and then told me that he didn't think i was really a texan because no texan would want an obama nominee to the supreme court to have a hearing and hung up.

  4. I was thinking about that, but what exactly happens on the phone? I would want to have remarks prepared, but am I going to talk to a message machine? A receptionist? I assume the call doesn't go "please hold on a sec... here s/he is... Hi, this is [representative], tell me what you have on your mind today" Should I have remarks that are easy for a secretary to transcribe and categorize, or can it be conversational and nuanced? If I leave a message will the rep hear the message or get a transcription of it or is it just shoehorned into a topic and tallied up?

    I do get nervous talking on the phone. I'm that guy that leaves you a voicemail that's "uh... ummmm..." for too long before then leaving a 5 minute detailed message that you won't listen to.

  5. Except Austin seems like. When Texas finally leaves the US, I see Austin turning into something like West Berlin during the Cold War.

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