Emily Ellsworth

Emily Ellsworth

photo: Emily Ellsworth

Americans are seeking new ways to engage their local and federal governments after a tense 2016 election resulted in Donald Trump being declared the president-elect

Emily Ellsworth, a writer and editor who used to work for representatives Chris Stewart and Jason Chaffetz, is giving those Americans a leg up. On November 11, Ellsworth — who's a registered Republican — tweeted a useful guide for getting Congressional legislators to listen to their constituents.

"On Friday night, I saw a bunch of people on my timeline that were asking questions like, 'I want to reach out to my member of Congress. I want to write them a letter. I want to do this. I want to do that,'" she told Revelist. "I thought that's actually something I know about because that was my life for almost a decade. If people want to reach out to their representatives, I think that's fantastic, and I want to make sure that they're spending their energy in the best way possible to make the maximum impact."

She started with a simple tweet that's since racked up over 12,000 retweets.    

Ellsworth then tweeted exactly how ordinary Americans can get their ideas heard by their Congressional representatives.

She decided to help Americans take action after being dismayed by Hillary Clinton losing the election. 

"After the election, like everybody else, I was completely devastated," she told Revelist. "I woke up on Wednesday just thinking I don't know what to do now. I don't know where to go from here, and kinda had to work through that those grief stages."

She began by explaining the kinds of messages legislators ignore.

Ellsworth knows because she used to file phone calls, letters, and visits, according to CNN.

That's why she knows emails and letters are hardly ever seen by the Congressperson.

In fact, most responses are generated through an algorithm.

Way to be politically engaged, senators!

Calling is the most effective method.

However, it's important to be very specific about what you want when you call.

"You need to know what you want. You need to know what you're going to say before you call. And you need to know whether or not that's relevant," she explained. "If you're involved with any kind of local advocacy group, they generally have a list of legislative priorities or things that they want from each congressional session. They do all of that research for you. They know what things are coming up on the schedule."

The power of calling is forcing staffers to express their candidate's position on issues.

"What’s really powerful is people call about something that is relevant and is in front of Congress right now, like a vote on an amendment or a piece of legislation or trying to get something through a committee," she said. "So if you call saying I want to know where you stand on HR-whatever it is or on this amendment, she staffer, in that moment, has to answer that question."

A deluge of phone calls sparks important conversations.

"The power comes in knowing what you’re talking about, knowing what you want, speaking plainly, but firmly to staffers," Ellsworth said. "They're getting 50 calls on one particular bill, they’re going to have to figure out really quickly where they stand on an issue. They can't ignore that right there in the moment."

Ellsworth also recommends going to town hall meetings. It's much more harder to ignore a constituent who shows up.

You can find out about town hall meetings by signing up for email notifications.

"If you sign up for emails on their official websites, their official House (.house.gov) or Senate (.senate.gov) website, that's where you can sign up for email notifications," Ellsworth said. It's also worth calling if your representative isn't holding town hall meetings at all.

If you really want your message heard, be kind to staffers. They decide which messages are passed on to the representative.

"I also think people need to understand that the true work gets done by a representative's staffer," Ellsworth said. "The staffers are the ones who research bills. They're the ones who talk to people in the community. They're the ones who know what's going on. You don't have to talk to the congressman to have your voice heard. Those staffers are very good about communicating important issues to their boss, and their boss trusts them. So, if you can develop a relationship with them and make your voice heard with them, that is just as good."

So, if pressuring Congressional leaders is part of your activism, pick up the phone. The midterm elections may depend on it.

"Now is the time to start identifying candidates that you want to run and flip the Senate or House in 2018," Ellsworth told CNN. "Make your action targeted. Make your Facebook groups, make your circles of friends and start mobilizing. Channel that anger, frustration, and depression into something meaningful that people aren't going to be able to ignore," she added.