Over the last several years we've heard a lot of conversations around voting — and that's for good reason.
Voting is important. People marched and died to ensure that the right to vote is not denied. And because we have the right and the ability, we absolutely should.
But voting isn't the end-all-be-all. We can't just show up every one or two or four years to vote and expect to see the world or our country or our communities become the places that we want them to be.
We have to continue to show up and do the work in between elections, too. We get to take on the responsibility of holding our elected officials accountable, whether we voted for them or not.
While not every representative is open-minded, a majority of representatives really do want to listen to their constituents, if for no other reason than to ensure that they get re-elected.
So hold them accountable all term long so that they know what it will take to get your vote.
The best ways to hold your elected officials accountable:
Call Your Representatives
I know that calling your elected officials (or calling strangers on the phone in general) sounds difficult or nerve-wracking, but it's really easy and simple.
When you have something that you care about in your community, and especially if you've heard that there is an opportunity for your elected representative to take action — whether through a vote, statement, or co-sponsoring of a bill — make a call.
What's going to happen is one of their staffers is going to pick up, and you can simply tell them, in a minute or two, what it is you care about.
Use everyday language. For example: “Hey, I saw this thing in the news and it really matters to me. I'm asking that the representative/the senator/the congresswoman takes action to prevent this from happening.”
You can be as specific or as general as you want. You can even ask questions about what the representative's position is or what they might be able to do about it.
Next, the staffer will probably ask you for your zip code and maybe your name to verify that you live within their district. Then they'll say thank you and you'll both hang up.
It's that simple.
A great way to cut through the noise is to share personal stories. Have you been affected by a particular law? Have you been affected by something happening in the news? When you tell your elected representative this story, it gives them the power to humanize what can otherwise feel like a very legalese process.
They may even use this anecdote in conversations with their fellow representatives, and it can truly have the power just to shape things.
Just dial 1-844-USA-0234 or visit usa.gov/elected-officials to learn how to get connected with your elected officials.
Pro-Tip: If you're too nervous, call after hours when the office is closed and leave a voicemail.
Pro-Tip: Set aside time to call your elected representatives each week by setting up a recurring event on your calendar. It can be 10 minutes or less. It will also help to add your representatives' direct phone numbers as contacts in your phone for easy dialing.
Pro-Tip: Talking with your elected representatives can feel daunting, but in reality, it's surprisingly simple. Once you've experienced that for yourself, teach a friend or record a tutorial to share on Instagram Stories.
Check out our Guide on how to contact your federal, state, and local elected officials.
Send Emails, Letters, And Postcards To Your Representatives
Write it yourself. Don't use a form letter. (If you use a form letter, edit it pretty significantly — that way makes it through all the filters.)
Be brief, but be honest and transparent. Tell your representative how you're really feeling and, if you have a personal story, use that to connect to people through empathy.
If you’re looking for an easy tool, try Resistbot, a fast and easy tool for contacting your representatives. Text RESIST to 50409 to get started.
Listen to our podcast episode with the founder of Resistbot.
Meet Face-to-Face With Your Representative
Part of your representative's job is to meet with constituents, and their staff should be able to help you schedule a meeting IRL or over Zoom.
(Plan ahead because you can’t always schedule something immediately.)
It could feel nerve-wracking, but it's a great opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with your representative, and you can even bring some friends — or organize the meeting through a nonprofit.
Similarly, another great way to get face time with your representative is through town halls. Representatives should be accountable to their communities by hosting open forums (even digitally).
You can find town halls in your community at townhallproject.com.
Show your officials that their constituents truly care about an issue within your community by protesting.
You have the power to put pressure on your elected officials to do better, to create improvements, and to respond accordingly. This genuinely can matter.
You can find community organizers and thoughtful activists in whatever community you live in and follow their lead. If you can't find any for the issue you care about, start something on your own with a friend.
How and why contacting your elected officials is effective:
It may feel like one phone call, one email, or one letter may not matter, but representatives regularly have meetings with their staffers, who give them the highlights of the conversations they've had that week.
When they hear even a handful of people reaching out about a particular topic, they absolutely bring it up in their internal staff meetings.
You can inspire a conversation within their office by just gathering a few friends to all make a few phone calls.
By continuing to stay involved in politics beyond Election Day, you have the power to hold your elected officials accountable and help ensure that they are taking actions that represent you and your community well.
At the end of the day, your representatives represent you and your community. Elections are a way of voting people out when they don't, but you still have the power to create change in between elections.
This story was originally published in The Politics Edition of the Goodnewspaper in October 2020. The Goodnewspaper is our monthly print newspaper filled with good news.
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