Calling a legislator can be a strong way to get their attention. Oklahoma legislators tell us that as few as 7 calls from their own constituents can prompt them to carefully a bill.
Here is how to make your call effective:
- Find the phone numbers of your own two legislators and go ahead and put those numbers in your address book. This won’t be the last time you call them, right? You can find all other legislators and the committees they are on HERE.
- Be polite to the person who answers the phone even if you’ve disagreed with them in the past. They’ll be more likely to be persuaded if they feel that you are being respectful of them as a fellow human being. Also, legislative assistants have a lot of power so cultivate that relationship!
- Let them know you ARE their constituent. This matters because most legislators will be much more responsive to folks from their own districts. (If you aren’t their constituent you can skip this step.)
- Thank them for their time and for something more specific if you can but keep it brief as you transition to asking for what you need. We’re here to win flies with honey instead of vinegar, right? (Chances are, if you look on their legislator web page, you can find at least one thing they’ve done that you like.) Starting with thanks makes it easier to hear concern.
- Example: “Good afternoon, I am a constituent of Senator Swallowtail and I am calling both to thank him for publicly proclaiming his distress about watermelon being our official state vegetable AND to ask that he please do all he can to encourage his fellow legislators to join him in voting for new recurring revenues during this upcoming Special Session…”
- Briefly tell them what is important to you and why. Practice being specific, emotionally compelling, and brief.
- Example: “Our state has a revenue problem! My son lost his favorite teacher because she had to move out of state to get even a decent paying job. Before she left she was working night shifts at Sonic and selling plasma to make ends meet. This is horrible and unnecessary when we can do so many things like restoring the GPT, end the capital gains exemption, or Adopt combined corporate reporting.”
- Make a specific request and take note of the answer. Following the example above, you could ask: “Can I count on Senator Swallowtail advocate for new recurring revenues”
“Can I count on Senator Swallowtail reject a bad budget that doesn’t include new revenues?”
“What recurring revenues is Senator Swallowtail encouraging his fellow legislators to consider?”
“If I email you a list of some of my favorite revenue options, could you ask Senator Swallowtail to comment on them and respond to my email?”
- Make note of what they say so you can follow up with them!
- Thank your legislator or their assistant for their time and remind them of the answer they gave you and the specific request you made.
- Follow up with your legislator after your call. IMPORTANT! While most people don’t call their legislators on most issues, legislative assistants may be getting a lot of calls the day you call. Don’t let them forget you! You may have to do some extra work to convince them that you are paying attention and that you plan to hold them accountable. Follow up with a hand-written note, or an email, thanking them again and reminding them of your specific request and the answer they gave you.
Again: Find their numbers, be polite, let them know you’re a constituent, thank them as you ask for what you need, briefly tell them why, make a specific request, take notes, thank them again, and follow up. If you take these steps you’ll be glad you did!
(Tell us about how it goes in our Together Oklahoma community conversations in Slack and in the Together OK Facebook group.)