Although I’ve voted in every presidential election and most midterm and locals, before Nov. 8 I had never contacted my elected representatives. Part of the reason for this was that for most of my adult life I lived in New Jersey, a solid blue state. I might not have agreed with my representatives on every issue, but the differences didn’t seem like a big deal. Even for a while after I moved to Pennsylvania, where we have split representation, I didn’t really do much or give it much thought.
The Nov. 8 election changed everything. Now it seems like there are an avalanche of issues that I want to express my opinion on and not enough time in the day. Here’s what I’ve been doing since then.
As I mentioned above, this really hasn’t been a problem. I run across plenty in my Twitter feed and my news sources. I check the Weekly Calling Sheet. I read the insanely helpful Indivisible on contacting your representatives and getting involved locally. I signed up for more action alerts than I can count. I subscribed to My Civic Workout, Daily Action Mobile Updates, and the Raise Your Hand If You’re Gonna Fight tinyletter.
This was initially the harder part. As a proud introvert and a GenX slacker, I had to find some ways to make this work for me:
- Contact representatives about one issue at a time. You can check Common Cause to find your federal representatives, and Open States to find your state reps. Be specific: what are you asking your representative to do? Is there a bill you want them to support or vote against? I try to focus my message, and be polite about it. This is just my personal style; I wouldn’t tell anyone not to get in-your-face angry if that’s what you want to do, but it doesn’t work for me.
- You can call your representatives after hours and leave a message on their answering machines. Remember to say that you are a constituent and leave your name and address to prove it.
- You can send free faxes to your representative. There are several free fax services online that allow you to send 2 faxes a day (one for each senator). I am partial to Got Free Fax, but there are also My Fax and Fax Zero. I made up letter templates for my Senators, Representative, State Representatives, and Governor, and I just copy and paste different issues in the appropriate template.
- All of your representatives should have a website with a contact page. You can email them your request through their websites.
- In some cases, I have phoned my representatives’ offices and spoken to their staffers. I know this is supposed to be the most effective way to contact them, but this is not my first choice, since I hate talking on the phone and I tend not to have time during the workday to make these calls. Again, make sure you know in advance what you are asking for. If you have a good story or reason for the call, by all means tell it, but you needn’t feel like you have to explain your position to the staffer.
Other Things I Did After the Election (Besides Cry)
- Subscribed to newspapers and magazines I want to support. Like everyone else, I have slacked on this since the internet arrived and made information “free.” I subscribed to the New York Times, Washington Post, The Nation, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Mother Jones. I also subscribed to Teen Vogue, even through it is way outside my demographic; I consider it more a donation in support than a subscription.
- Donated money: the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Democratic party (national and state), NOW, Emily’s List, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, so far. I rearranged my budget to accommodate a new monthly charitable donation, and I’ll choose a different charity each month.
- Joined the League of Women Voters, which is active in our area.
- Attended a local Democrat organizing meeting, and am getting involved in a local redistricting committee.
I’m going to try and post more here about what I am doing, both to share with others and to hold myself accountable. Reading this over, it looks like a lot but it feels like it is still not enough.