Indivisible States: Coordinated Calls

Mass office calling is a light lift, but it can actually have an impact. A single constituent’s call may not make much of an impact, but multiple calls from constituents coordinated on a single topic is sure to be noticed. In contrast to your experiences calling your federal representative, you’ll rarely get a busy signal and you might find that the person who answers has the time to have a full conversation with you rather than just registering your opinion in a database. Because state legislators are really not used to hearing much from their constituents and state legislative offices are not heavily staffed, it takes much fewer calls to get noticed. We have been told by state legislative staff that little as 100 calls on a single day could literally shut down a legislator’s office in California. For states with less staff, even fewer calls could have enormous impact!

When to Call

For in-person events, you want to prepare a host of questions, but for calls, keep it simple. You and your group should all agree to call in on one specific issue that day. It is most effective to coordinate large numbers of calls for bills at strategic timepoints. There are two good times to call a representative about a bill:

  1. Right before a vote: One hundred constituent calls trickling in over the course of a month has less impact than the same number of calls in one work day near the vote. Whether the vote is in committee or on the floor, calling just before a vote demonstrates that you are knowledgeable and watching. They are also much more likely to remember your call since the vote is upcoming.

  2. Right after a vote: If your representative didn’t do what you wanted, call to let their staff know how disappointed you are that they are not representing your interests.

What to Call About

The most important thing is to be specific. Tell your representative exactly how you want them to vote on a specific bill or give them a concrete idea for a piece of new legislation. This gives you leverage to hold them accountable. Don’t make vague requests like “I want the Senator to protect the environment.” There is no way to measure whether or not they did what you asked. On the other hand if you say something like “I want the Senator to vote yes on SB 100 that would advance our renewable energy standards in committee tomorrow,” you will have a concrete way to hold your representative accountable.

Writing a Call Script

An easy way to encourage your group members to participate in your call campaign is to provide them with a pre-written script. This lowers the barrier to participate and can ease the nerve of folks who are hesitant to make calls. Your script should be brief and include who you are, where you are from, and a clear and strong ask.

Call Script Template

Hi, my name is <NAME> and I live in <TOWN>. I am a constituent of <REPRESENTATIVE TITLE + NAME> and I am calling to let <REPRESENTATIVE TITLE + NAME> know that I strongly <SUPPORT/OPPOSE> <BILL NUMBER> that would <ONE SENTENCE DESCRIPTION ABOUT WHAT THE BILL DOES>. <ONE OR TWO SENTENCES ABOUT WHY YOU CARE ABOUT THIS ISSUE>.

Can I count on <REPRESENTATIVE TITLE+NAME> to vote <YES/NO> on <BILL NUMBER> when it is heard <IN COMMITTEE/ON THE FLOOR> <DATE, IF KNOWN>?

Example

Hi, my name is Maria and I live in Berkeley. I am a constituent of Senator Skinner and I am calling to let her know that I strongly support SB 822 that would enact net neutrality in California. It is important to me that content on the internet is equally accessible to all.

Can I count on Senator Skinner to vote YES on SB 822 when it is heard on the Senate floor next week?

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Making the Calls

  1. Ask to speak to the staffer who handles the issue (immigration, health care, etc.).

  2. Recite your script and ask.

  3. Take notes on everything that is discussed. Try to get direct quotes — anything that is discussed is public information that can be shared widely.

  4. Compare notes with the rest of your group, and identify any conflicts in what they’re telling constituents.

Always Call Your Own Representative

Advocating for important legislation that affects your community is a valuable skill, that should be strategically wielded for making an impact. You may feel motivated to advocate for your friends, neighbors,and other people affected in other parts of the state, especially when your member is not a key decision maker (e.g. they aren’t on the policy committee that it is hearing the bill). But It is only impactful when you contact your own representative. Calling representatives that are not yours is actually counterproductive to successfully deploying constituent power. When legislators receive too many calls from out-of-district, they can use that excuse as a reason to dismiss all of the calls they receive, including from their own constituents. By calling out-of-district, you are undermining the voices of real constituents. If your legislator is not a key decision maker, use your time instead to reach out to your fellow Indivisibles who are in those key districts and ask them to make calls. This is why collaborating with fellow Indivisibles can be so powerful.

Read our resource detailing why there are no exceptions to the rule of only calling your own representatives.