Citizens encouraged to speak with senators to express opinions, concerns

Since the recent inauguration, there has been an influx of citizens calling their elected representatives to discuss President Trump’s proposed legislation as well as his picks for Cabinet, Supreme Court and department heads.

But is the practice of contacting government officials effective?

According to Dylan Poe, president of the University’s College Democrats organization, it is.

“If enough people call their representatives on a particular issue, the elected officials will hear about it,” he said.

This was demonstrated in the outcome of the Senate vote that took place on Feb. 7 and appointed Betsy DeVos as the nation’s education secretary. Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against her nomination because of constituent phone calls. The vote was so close that Vice President Mike Pence had to vote to break the tie, a first in Senate history.

“While this wasn’t enough to block her confirmation entirely, it is an example of how contacting government officials is actually worth your time,” Poe said.

Poe, who has personally contacted several representatives including Senator Rob Portman as well as U.S. Representatives Bob Latta and Jim Jordan, said it is far more effective to call legislators than to email them.

There are other ways to maximize efficacy when contacting legislators, according to The Leadership Conference, a national civil and human rights coalition. On their website they provide a compilation of tips on calling legislators, such as being direct in stating the purpose of your call, and making sure to call your own senators and representatives as they will be primarily concerned with the residents of their districts.

In addition to these tips, the Union of Concerned Scientists offers its own list of additional pointers on how to be productive when contacting representatives. According to USC, constituents should:

  • Call congressional offices directly or through the switchboard
  • Be brief
  • Note their expertise
  • Know their facts
  • Be timely
  • Consider calling the local office

Sophomore psychology and Spanish major Ian Russell said he believes that calling one’s senators is an important practice, and that all students should strive to be more involved in politics.

“Political efficacy and awareness is the key to a functional and democratic society,” Russell said. “We all have to be aware of our power in order to have it.”

Russell said he has acted on this principle several times by attending protests and helping to canvas a campaign for the Ohio House of Representatives.

Like Russell, students can get engaged in politics on a local level. In addition to calling representatives, Poe said students can participate in peaceful protests or do something as simple as registering to vote.

Students can also join political organizations on campus, such as Poe’s College Democrats, which meets on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. in room 103 of the Business Administration Building. For a complete listing of the political organizations offered at the University, students can visit the Student Org Directory at http://bgsu.orgsync.com/home and browse the “political/social issues” category.

“Regardless of your political affiliation, I would personally like to encourage you to get involved as much as possible,” Poe said. “We cannot afford to be silent, especially at a time in our political history like this.”