Representatives
You have a voice, use it. (Illustration by Malini Basu, Macalester College)

5 Reasons To Reach Out to Your Representatives

Engaging in activism doesn’t have to consume all of your time. Calling your congressperson only takes minutes out of your day.

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Representatives

Engaging in activism doesn’t have to consume all of your time. Calling your congressperson only takes minutes out of your day.

While being a college student comes with its own set of challenges, like finding a good roommate or passing a biology final, there is still an overwhelming pressure to be a good citizen in a time when social injustices occur daily. It isn’t always feasible for a full-time student with a part-time job to find hours to spare to canvass for a candidate or attend a protest. However, there is one easy and important way that college students can get involved with issues that matter: contacting local representatives.

Here are five compelling facts about reaching out to political leaders:

1. Contacting Representatives takes less than five minutes.

If there’s one thing that can be said about college kids, it’s that they are perpetually running out of time. Between taking classes, picking up an extra shift at work and going out with friends, it’s hard to find a way to be politically active. However, contacting local representatives is quick and easy. By entering a zip code on this website, a list of representatives and their contact information will be presented. On any given senator’s or congressman’s website, there is an “email me” tool that provides an easy template for talking to them about important issues. It is really that simple.

One important resource for contacting representatives and keeping track of important bills is https://www.countable.us/. Countable makes it simple to rapidly reach out to congressional leaders and subscribe to issues that others have voiced their opinions on.

Whether there’s a spare moment during a commute or a pause in a professor’s lecture — there are many resources that make it quick and easy for college students to contact a legislator.

2. There are multiple outlets to contact representatives.

Being a college student means spending a lot of time glued to phones and laptops. There are numerous ways to get in contact with local representatives that make it easy for busy students to stand up for what they believe. Congressmen and senators in each state have websites with phone numbers, mailing addresses and email templates for the citizens in their district to use to reach out to them. While it is most effective to contact congressional leaders directly through their offices, third-party platforms that do the work for you make outreach a breeze. Tweeting and commenting on the official profiles of local representatives doesn’t hurt either, although tweets aren’t documented or guaranteed to be read by leaders.

3. There’s no need to speak with anyone.

For many students who are introverted or feel uncomfortable speaking with someone directly, there are multiple ways to contact a representative without talking to anyone.

While emailing congress members is an obvious way to avoid speaking with someone, calling the phone numbers of the congressional offices after-hours will trigger an answering machine and will be listened to and recorded by their secretary in the morning.

If using either of these methods still seems challenging for those of us with social anxiety, there are also third-party websites and apps that can do the heavy lifting. Platforms like Countable or ResistBot are virtual middlemen between constituents and congressmen. ResistBot is a free service that can be used to “text” congressional leaders. ResistBot walks every member through the process of contacting leaders about a specific issue and ensures that the message is tailored to the likings of each user. ResistBot will also follow up with notifications about similar bills and topics being proposed.

It has never been easier to vouch for legislation and be politically active while rushing to class or sitting at home in pajamas.

4. It brings attention to issues that are important to everyone that might not have been discussed before.

Many people are unaware of how contacting congressmen can help their community or if it will matter at all. There are many resources that can help make sense of what contacting your representatives looks like. Essentially, at the end of every week, a congressman gets a call log report with the issues that were called into the office. They also receive a tally of how many times each issue was mentioned. Contacting congressional leaders helps bills, laws and other important matters make their way to the forefront of the political agenda. Representatives can be unaware of the problems plaguing college students and other working-class citizens and will use this information to become more aware and sponsor legislation. Since congressmen rely on the voters in their district to stay in office, it is in their best interest to listen to the concerns of these people.

5. You can enact real change.

While it might seem impossible, contacting congressmen and senators can really make a difference. In 2017, a report from the Congressional Management Foundation gathered from multiple surveys, revealed that 92% of congressmen said that personalized emails and letters from their constituents affected their stance on an issue. Various bills have been passed through Congress because voters reached out through emails, phone calls and meetings. One organization, The Borgen Project, calls on citizens to contact their representatives and bring awareness to issues like global poverty and foreign policy. In the 115th Congress, six bills were passed because of communication and lobbying from residents.

Though it might be easier to see change on a local level by contacting congressmen, senators should also be aware of issues that are relevant to their constituents. It is important for college students to not only reach out to congressmen and senators, but to also schedule one-on-one meetings with leaders if they can find the time.

The changes will be slow and will take time to manifest in communities. While this can seem daunting, it is important to stand behind causes worth fighting for and mobilize friends, neighbors and parents to contact local representatives as well. College students have little choice when it comes to roommate assignments or the grade received on a final. However, they do have a voice when it comes to politics and it starts with contacting representatives.

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