With the exception of voting, the most crucial part of living in a representative democracy is contacting your representative! There has been a huge increase in citizens calling to let their representatives know how they feel about all the important issues up for debate. We at Arizona Public Square encourage this important action, and want to provide a guide on how best to do this. So whether you are a first time caller, or are a seasoned constituent who wants to make sure their message is being heard, here are some tips to help you.
- Make sure to call YOUR representative
The most important thing to make sure of is that you are calling the representative who represents you in your district. Politicians care about those people who can vote for them. Those who take the call will frankly tend to ignore your call if they find out that you live outside of their boss’s district. If you don’t know which district you live in, check this website to make sure: http://azredistricting.org/districtlocator/
There will be cases where you will be calling other district representatives, especially when they are on a committee choosing to forward a bill to the House or Senate.
- Be politely persistent and persistently polite.
There are many issues we are passionate about. In some cases, a vote on an issue can have serious repercussions for you. However, if you want your representative to listen to you, it is best to be polite. Be free to let your passion show when expressing your opinion. In most incidents, you will be talking to a staff member and not your representative. Let whoever is taking your call know how much you care about your issue and how much you are willing to fight for it.
- Use personal antidotes.
Five percent unemployment, 11.9 percent uninsured rate, these are all important statistics. However, what matters most to the people taking your calls is the story you can tell. Talking about the problem of an 11.9 percent uninsured rate is good, but talking about your relative who’s life is in jeopardy because they do not have access to affordable health insurance is a stronger story. People are, at their base, emotional creatures and humanizing these important issues is crucial. Speaking to your representatives heart instead of their head is a stronger way to communicate your message. By speaking personally, you are showing your representatives the human cost of their actions.
- Call, don’t email, your representative!
Yes, sending an email is easier. And yes, making a call can make you nervous. But there is no better way to convey your thoughts on a law or issue than talking to someone over the phone. As many of you who have sent emails to your representative before know, the answer one usually receives is a dull response that will obfuscate the issue, and is likely similar to the email anyone else who wrote about that issue received. Showing you care enough about the issue to pick up a phone counts a lot to your legislator.
Here’s an outline
For those of you who are new to this, we have provided a generic outline to use when calling your representative
Hello, this is [insert name],
I am one of your constituents, and I live at [insert address here].
I am calling today regarding [issue].
As you may know, many of your constituents are concerned about this issue.
I am calling you in favor/ opposed to this issue. I believe that you should [what you want from your representative].
This issue affects my family and I as well. [Insert personal antidote].
Thank you for your time and thank you for hearing my concern.
As you can tell, your point doesn’t need to be particularly long or elegant. What is important is that your representative knows how their constituent cares about the issues.
For those who want to contact their representatives in the Arizona Legislature, check to find your legislators contact info here: