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SALT LAKE CITY — Now that the election season is over, one question remains: How do you contact your elected representative to make sure your concerns are heard?
Emily Ellsworth, a former staffer for Utah Republican Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart, who, according to CNN, spent a portion of her job filing phone calls, letters and visits from constituents, listed off several tips in a series of tweets beginning late last week that have since gone viral.
Ellsworth, now a web content editor and marketer, was also featured on WBEZ’s “This American Life” podcast last week. The episode included a profile of Ellsworth, as a Republican and former staffer of Chaffetz and Stewart that voted and campaigned for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the presidential election.
Here are the tips Ellsworth gave to make sure your voice is heard by your local representatives.
Tip No. 1: Know the system
In a post Ellsworth wrote for Jezebel, the former staffer said knowing how representative staffs work are important to getting in contact with the representative.
She notes that House representatives have smaller staffs and smaller budgets than Senate staffs and that interns play prominent roles among the staff.
“Because elected officials represent hundreds of thousands and even millions of people, they rely on a few systems to try to prioritize and respond to constituent correspondence in many forms,” she wrote.
Invite staffers on "field trips" and show them what it's like in your communities. Show them the work you are doing. It works.— Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016
Are you noticing a pattern here? The staff are the ones who run the ground game for Congress. Work on helping them understand and learn.— Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016
Those staffers you may hear from will listen though, she tweeted.
As always, please be kind but firm with those staffers. They will listen and talk to you. I always, always did.— Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016
Tip No. 2: Don’t go online; letters and phone calls are more effective.
First, tweeting or writing on Facebook is largely ineffective. I never looked at those comments except to remove the harassing ones.— Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016
Second, writing a letter to the district office (state) is better than sending an email or writing a letter to DC.— Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016
But, the most effective thing is to actually call them on the phone. At their district (state) office. They have to talk to you there.— Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016
Sending a personal letter to your congressman's state office is absolutely effective. If you can't call on the phone, try to do that.— Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016
Ellsworth goes on to say the amount of emails received is “overwhelming” and responding to all letters was “impossible.”
However, phone calls, she said, are one way to get a representative’s attention; referencing a time that a radio show host gave out the representative’s number regarding an issue and the phones would not stop ringing.
It was exhausting and you can bet my bosses heard about it. We had discussions because of that call to action.— Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016
Tip No. 3: Go to town hall meetings
Ellsworth said often these meetings are under attended with many in attendance regular attendees. However, they are a great place for a constituent to get their message across.
If you want to talk to your rep, show up at town hall meetings. Get a huge group that they can't ignore. Pack that place and ask questions.— Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016
She said that signing up to be a part of a representative’s email list is a great way to be alerted when a town hall meeting is set.
Tip No. 4: Communicate with staffers regarding local advocacy groups
Community advocacy groups are a great tool for citizens to show what they are doing and how concerned they are about certain issues.
Ellsworth said it’s important for those groups to invite congressional staffers to events and communicate often to emphasize how important the issue is to the group and the citizens a part of the group. In turn, the group often becomes an early reference for when questions arise about the topic the group advocates.
If you run an advocacy group, invite local staffers to show up to your events. Let them talk to people you work with and set up meetings.— Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016
Because, if the staff knows you, when they have a question about a piece of legislation or amendment, they will be the one you call.— Emily Ellsworth (@editoremilye) November 12, 2016