Friend of Ye Olde Blogge provided this article from The Outline explaining the reasons that calling your MOC is not always the best way of making your voice heard due to the archaic telephone technology they typically use. According to the article, most MOC offices phone systems record about 100 voicemails per line. In 2020, when there is technology available to allow for a virtually unlimited number of voicemails to be recorded, this limitation seems more of a feature than a flaw, doesn’t it? Let me summarize some of the finer points:
- The average MOC office has between four and seven phone lines meaning that they can record 400 to 700 voicemails before the inbox becomes full. Given that each representative represents 747,184 people and each senator represents the population of their state, that ain’t much, especially when the issue is urgent or dire like the replacement of #RBG or the repeal of the ACA.
- The article references a WIRED story that did the math! Assuming that each call takes a minute, phones are answered ten hours per day, and phones are answered every possible minute, then a fully staffed office is capable of taking 4,200 calls per day. How many people is each MOC responsible for?
- Usually voicemail is listened to and opinions tallied on a daily basis by a low-level staffer or intern. At least the listener has the eagerness to do a good job that naivety brings.
- The average amount of time or number of calls that are not answered by a real live human being or recorded by a real live voicemail system is 3%. That’s called the unavailable rate.
- There is no general rule governing how often voicemail boxes are emptied with it varying everywhere from every minute to weekly. It also depends on what is going on at the time and how open the MOC is to hearing from her constituents (see the amusing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Arrogance) anecdote below).
- The record for the busiest day for the Capitol switchboard was 30 January 2017 in which 1.5 million calls were fielded. Surely, you remember the halcyon days of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s first immigration ban?
Amusing Ted Cruz Anecdote
Copied from the article:
For example, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was notorious for not checking his voicemails, according to Nick O’Neill, a co-founder action committee 5 Calls, which urges people to call their senators. The Texas senator “used to have a really bad contact rate in general and leave voicemail boxes full for a week at a time,” O’Neill said.
From early 2017 to early 2018, Cruz’s office had an “unavailable” rate — meaning no one answered constituent calls and his voicemail was full — of 9 percent. But that changed suddenly at the start of 2018. Calls to Cruz went through regularly. His voicemail almost always had free space. His “unavailable” rate dropped to just 2 percent. (The average for all representatives is 3 percent.)
Why the sudden interest by Cruz in the opinion of his constituents? Beto. Move along folks. No crass callous political calculations going on here.
Alternatives to Calling
So, if no one answers the phone at your MOC’s office and the voicemail box is full, what is an informed engaged voter to do? Funnily enough, the next best ways of influencing your MOC are real old school, like stone age old. Here they are listed in order that Ye Olde Blogge deems them effective.
- SNAIL MAIL: Organizations like Five Calls and Indivisible often provide postcard messages to be used in mailing campaigns. And, it is considered second to calling as the best method of contact.
- VISITING YOUR MOC’s OFFICE: Indivisible groups and other citizen groups have organized visits to MOC offices to drop off messages and garner publicity for a cause. It’s a good reason to join an Indivisible group near you.
- EMAIL: Email is largely ignored, but not always. I’ve heard from readers about exchanging emails with staffers and the MOC. It happens. But, the article says largely ignored.
- FAX: You could kick it old school and send a fax! Remember them? “…[S]ome staffers say… it feels ‘weird’ to receive a fax.”
- SOCIAL MEDIA: Many MoC’s have social media accounts on the various platforms. You can tag their handles on a message or social media directly at them. No guarantee that it will be seen, though.
For more information on the do’s and don’t’s and in’s and out’s of contacting your MOC’s, see the official Call Your MOC page.
Signs of Life
Life as a part-time blogger and full-time citizen in these times of the covfefevirus and rising authoritarian tide can be hectic, but also, lonely. Help a lonely old blogger out. Help relieve the monotony of screaming into void. Give me a sign of life. Choose one of these methods: