Representatives and Senators will be back in their districts and states next week as Congress recesses for President’s Day; their break is your opportunity to speak directly to them about the important issues facing our democracy.
While visiting their districts, many lawmakers hold Town Hall meetings, speaking to and hearing directly from constituents. House members in particular are constantly running for reelection; so they have special incentive to start listening. These face-to-face meetings are a powerful way to remind them that they work for YOU.
You can find out if, when, and where your Representatives are holding Town Halls here.
The link is to a database maintained by our friends at Townhallproject.com and includes scheduled office hours for lawmakers or members or their staffs as well as schedules for Town Hall meetings
To help you make the most of your meeting, whether at a Town Hall or during office hours, here are a few tips.
Before the Town Hall:
Recruit several friends, family members, or neighbors to go with you. A show in numbers demonstrates a shared sentiment on your issue.
Do your homework. Particularly in one-on-one or small group meetings during office hours, members of Congress or their staffs may push back when you make arguments that go against the member’s position. The best way to handle this is to know the issue, anticipate their arguments against you, and have responses ready. Be respectful, but stand your ground.
Prepare several sharp, fact-based questions for members of your group to ask. However, limit your points to just one or two issues to maximize the impact they will have on your representative. It’s also helpful to have information on your representative’s statements or voting record on the issue. Check the member’s website and try a Google News search to help you round up that background.
Signs and posters can be a powerful demonstration of the importance of your issue; they’ll also carry your message in case you don’t get to ask your question. But don’t bring signs unless your group has enough people to both hold signs and ask questions. Congressional staffers who control the microphones at these meetings probably won’t give you a mic if you’re holding a sign that suggests you oppose the congressman’s or congresswoman’s position.
At the Town Hall:
Arrive early to organize and distribute questions among members of your group. Then spread out in the meeting room; that will reinforce the idea of a broad consensus.
When asking your questions, be polite but persistent. Don’t give up the mic until you receive the real answers. When others in your group ask questions, applaud to show their feelings are shared.
Record everything! Audio or video clips can be shared on social media or given to local press to hold representatives accountable
After the Town Hall
Follow up the meeting with a letter to the member or staff, thanking him/her for the meeting and urging them to hold regular Town Halls -- if they don't already.
Reach out to the media. They can be very influential, so reach out to reporters at the meeting to underscore your points and contact journalists who weren't present but cover your issues to give them a first-hand account of the event. Offer to share everything you recorded from the event with them, as well as posting pictures and videos to social media and tagging the Member of Congress’s office.
Office: Common Cause National