Future Tense

Now Is a Pretty Inconvenient Time for So Many Senators to Have Full Voicemail Inboxes

Lindsey Graham approached by a protester.
Sorry, his voicemail inbox is full. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Friday’s Senate Judiciary Committee session vote promised to determine the future of Brett Kavanagh’s Supreme Court nomination, so naturally some Americans spent their mornings attempting to call their senators and sound off. Only not all of their voices got heard—because some of the callers were greeted with full voicemail inboxes.

So much for the oft-given advice to “Call your representatives!” It won’t do a whole lot of good when you can’t get through to them. The timing is particularly bad today, when voters want to talk about Kavanaugh, who faces accusations of sexual assault. But as the Outline has written, outdated technology is a persistent issue standing in the way of constituents connecting with their representatives: “Most congressional offices have only between four and seven phone lines, and their voicemail boxes close after only 100 or so messages—not a high threshold for representatives who govern thousands, if not millions, of people.”

The problem is particularly annoying considering how relatively easy and inexpensive it would be to fix. We live in an age of cheap data storage. Haven’t these people ever heard of Google Voice? There are seemingly dozens of companies that offer enterprise voicemail services; congressional offices should be at least as well equipped as any corporate customer service system. They may not need abundant voicemail space on most days, but during weeks like this one—when senators’ decisions will impact the makeup of the Supreme Court for the next generation—their technological failure is also a democratic one. They should be able to receive their constituents’ voicemails. Whether the politicians would really be listening, of course, is a whole other question.