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Over the past week, Jessica Steele has tried calling Sen. Orrin Hatch's office three times to voice her concerns about President Donald Trump's administration. Each time, after a series of rings, she reaches the same message: "I'm sorry, but that mailbox is full. Please try again later."
And then the call disconnects.
It's a hurdle that purportedly hundreds of Utahns have faced in recent weeks, trying to reach the senator's office. With a flood of new executive orders from Trump including the controversial refugee-and-immigration edict and Cabinet nominee hearings, many residents hoped to give input to Hatch, R-Utah, that he might take into account during votes. But most haven't been able to get through.
"Short of actually talking to your representative in person, a phone call is the best way to get your message across to them," said Steele, a 24-year-old Provo resident. "If their office had been busy one day, that would have been understandable. But for several weeks at a time, it's enormously frustrating."
Hatch's office, in a prepared statement, said the phone lines are tied up by out-of-state robocalls about 80 percent of the incoming calls. Until the issue is resolved, the office suggests reaching the senator by email, social media or through his website.
"Our apologies if you are having difficulty reaching our office by phone," the statement reads. "We apologize for the disruption and are working to fix the problem as soon as possible."
When The Salt Lake Tribune tried phoning Hatch's Washington, D.C., number, the line went to the full voicemail message and hung up.
Steele applauds the office for having "acknowledged the problem," though it's not the only one with phone issues. Republican Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart, as well as Sen. Mike Lee, have also seen a high volume of calls at their D.C. and Utah offices since Trump was elected in November and staffers have struggled to clear the messages quickly enough.
Chaffetz's office has three lines and aides switch between taking calls and listening to the answering machine. The Tribune called his D.C. office Monday and got a busy signal. A second attempt was answered by a staff member.
"[If] four or five people are trying to get through, it will send people to our voicemail and then you'll have that voicemail fill up quick," said M.J. Henshaw, a spokeswoman for Chaffetz. "But the people on staff who are answering the phones, they can't answer phones and clean out the inbox at the same time."
The congressman has an additional four lines where he receives calls with the House Oversight Committee, which he chairs. When The Tribune phoned that number, a pre-recorded message said: "If you would like to provide information or make an inquiry relating to President Donald Trump, please press one. For all other matters or to speak with a staff member, please press two."
After pressing one: "House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform issue line is not answering. This mailbox is full and cannot accept new messages."
After pressing two? A staff member answered.
It's unclear, though, just how many calls are coming to the congressman each day, Henshaw said, and how many are missed. The office, though, fields calls daily about the Trump administration. Chaffetz staffers also saw a flood of messages after comedian Sarah Silverman tweeted the Oversight phone number in November, urging people to call about Trump's financial disclosures.
"It didn't stop," Henshaw said. "I would take my hand off the receiver and another call would come in, another call would come in, another call would come in."
Plenty of those are from out of state, mainly on the East Coast, with people dialing in from Pennsylvania and New York. Henshaw didn't have an estimate for what percent of the calls are from outside Utah, but said it's enough to impact how many state residents can access the lines.
"People that are genuinely trying to get through because they need our help on things sometimes in the past month or two have had a hard time getting through to our office because the phone lines are just jammed," she said.
Steele, who eventually got through to Hatch's office Tuesday morning, also tried calling Chaffetz and Lee over the past few weeks and got full voicemail messages.
A call by The Tribune to Lee's office on Monday morning was answered with the "please try again later" message. The senator's communication director, Conn Carroll, said the problem was resolved about noon that day. The Tribune tried again and reached a staff member.
"The voicemail box was full because a major news story developed on Friday evening," Carroll said, referring to Trump's refugee executive order, "and the voicemail was not opened until Monday … Our phone lines are now open and we've been taking calls all day."
Baylee Sorenson, a Farmington resident, never got through, though. She called Thursday and the line "just rang and rang and rang." Another try on Monday afternoon ended with frustration at the full inbox message.
"They represent the state of Utah and if the state of Utah can't get ahold of them then they're not doing their job," the 26-year-old said. "That's as simple as it is."
Other residents venting about the lack of response on social media said Stewart's office hasn't picked up calls either. The Tribune tried Monday and received an answer from a staff member after a few rings.
The line can get jammed, though, at night and over the weekend. It's cleared each morning by staff members, who watch the voicemail during business hours to ensure it doesn't fill up.
Stewart, himself, applauded the level of engagement that the high volume of phone calls to his office represents.
"I'm thrilled to see so many participating in the political process by voicing their opinions to their elected officials," he said in a prepared statement. "As I formulate my positions on current issues it's critical that I know where my constituents stand so that I can best represent them."
Several political advocacy groups and grassroots movements in the state have organized calling campaigns to "phone blitz" the senator and representative offices. It's unclear how successful those drives will be with the current overload issues.
It does not appear that Republican Reps. Mia Love and Rob Bishop voicemails have the same issue. Calls by The Tribune to their respective offices were promptly answered.