How to Make Your Congressman Listen to You

By: Tricia Tongco@triciatongco   November 13, 2016

A series of viral tweets by former Congressional staff member Emily Ellsworth offered advice on how to get your representative to take notice and hear you out.

Emily Ellsworth: I worked for Congress for 6 years, and here’s what I learned about how they listen to constituents. 5:03 PM – 11 Nov 2016

Ellsworth, a Salt Lake City-based writer and editor, worked for Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, for whom she acted as a liaison for people and the federal agencies, CNN reported.

Take a look at her tips for capturing your congressman or congresswoman’s attention, which also includes what doesn’t work:

First, tweeting or writing on Facebook is largely ineffective. I never looked at those comments except to remove the harassing ones.  5:04 PM – 11 Nov 2016

Second, writing a letter to the district office (state) is better than sending an email or writing a letter to DC. 5:04 PM – 11 Nov 2016

But, the most effective thing is to actually call them on the phone. At their district (state) office. They have to talk to you there. 5:05 PM – 11 Nov 2016

We repped half a million people, it was impossible to read and respond personally to all letters. Impossible. 5:07 PM – 11 Nov 2016

This was something in particular that I cared about as a staffer and worked very hard on, but the sheer volume of emails is overwhelming. 5:08 PM – 11 Nov 2016

So, we batched them with computer algorithms and sent out form letters based on topic and position. Regardless of method received. 5:08 PM – 11 Nov 2016

But, phone calls! That was a thing that shook up our office from time. One time, a radio host gave out our district office phone # on air. 5:09 PM – 11 Nov 2016

He was against our immigration policy and told our constituents to call. And they did. All. Day. Long. All I did all day was answer phones. 5:09 PM – 11 Nov 2016

It was exhausting and you can bet my bosses heard about it. We had discussions because of that call to action. 5:10 PM – 11 Nov 2016

If we started getting a pattern of calls, I called up our DC office and asked if they were getting the same calls and we talked. 5:10 PM – 11 Nov 2016

Also, recognize that your letters and your emails get seen by staffers, just like your phone calls get answered. That’s the way of it. 5:11 PM – 11 Nov 2016

If you want to talk to your rep, show up at town hall meetings. Get a huge group that they can’t ignore. Pack that place and ask questions. 5:11 PM – 11 Nov 2016

We held town halls consistently that fewer than 50 people showed up for. And it was always the same people. So, shake it up. 5:12 PM – 11 Nov 2016

Ellsworth also revealed how staffers can be powerful allies.

As always, please be kind but firm with those staffers. They will listen and talk to you. I always, always did. 5:13 PM – 11 Nov 2016

If you run an advocacy group, invite local staffers to show up to your events. Let them talk to people you work with and set up meetings. 5:14 PM – 11 Nov 2016

I loved getting out of my office and meeting with advocates in immigration, healthcare, education, science, and every type of work. 5:14 PM – 11 Nov 2016

Invite staffers on “field trips” and show them what it’s like in your communities. Show them the work you are doing. It works. 5:15 PM – 11 Nov 2016

Are you noticing a pattern here? The staff are the ones who run the ground game for Congress. Work on helping them understand and learn. 5:18 PM – 11 Nov 2016

Because, if the staff knows you, when they have a question about a piece of legislation or amendment, they will be the one you call. 5:19 PM – 11 Nov 2016

And, that’s the best I’ve got for you now. I hope it helps.

Use your resources the best way you can and get their attention. 5:27 PM – 11 Nov 2016

“Like a lot of people, I’ve been reeling from the election,” Ellsworth, a registered Republican who campaigned for Hillary Clinton, told CNN. “So I thought people might like to know how you mobilize and activate individual communities to reach each member of Congress. I just thought I have this knowledge, and I did this for six years, and it’s probably important for people to know what those specific actions are.”


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