Letters and emails are a very useful advocacy tool

With the exception of those in leadership roles, most elected leaders have little to no staff. That means the majority of time, they’re the ones who are answering when constituents write. The amount of mail a lawmaker gets on a certain issue can help determine its importance in their eyes. For example, if they are getting dozens of emails and letters saying “vote NO on this bill,” or, "why didn't you show up to Sioux Falls Pride?" it’s bound to make a big impression.

As with any other meeting or communication with your elected official, politeness is key. Be kind, be honest, and share your personal story. Facts are important, but personal and relatable stories can play a powerful role in changing hearts, minds, and votes.

A note on hand-written correspondence:

Each elected official should have a professional email address; some list their home address and telephone number on their official websites. Keep in mind during the busy times of year, they may not get to their mailboxes as frequently, so if you’re sending physical/snail mail they may not receive your letter in a timely manner. Emails or phone calls are always great options, especially when paired together. 

Tips for writing to your letters:

  1. Make it short and sweet: If your elected leader is receiving a large amount of mail about certain hot-button issues, you’ll want to make your point quickly.
  2. Tell a story: The more personal your letter is, the more compelling it will be. Tell your elected leadear how laws they're voting on will affect you, your family, or your friends.
  3. Problem, solution, action: In the letter be sure to include the problem, the solution, and the action you want taken (i.e. “Vote YES to pass the Equality Act!”).

A well-written, personal letter or email is an invaluable way to make your voice heard.

Sample letter to state legislators:

"Dear Senator, my name is Sean and I'm a constituent in your district. I'm writing in today with extreme concern about SB 1234.

Senate Bill 1234 undermines the ability of women and families to make personal and private medical decisions. It may also dictate the relationship between health care providers and their patients, putting patients' health at risk.

It is important to respect reproductive autonomy and reserve personal decisions regarding health care and family planning to a woman and her chosen support team. Please do not allow politicians, many with little to no medical knowledge; dictate how South Dakota women are supposed to access reproductive health care.

Please, don’t allow far-reaching bills like this to go any further. Their denial will put private and personal health decisions back where they belong - in the hands of a woman, her family and her doctor. Please vote no on SB 1234.

Thank you,"

Sample letter City Council or Mayoral offices:

"Dear Mayor and City Council,

As an out LGBTQ South Dakotan, it’s important to me and my family to see elected leaders proudly support everyone in their community. Did you know that over 20,000 South Dakotan adults identify as LGBTQ? That is roughly 3% of the population. In the last few years, I've attended Pride and witnessed an overwhelming sense of community, loved, and acceptance. It has been great to see former Mayor Smith attend Pride and read the city's proclamation, but in 2019 I was saddened to miss the current Mayor.  

While I respect everyone, even lawmakers; have to set aside time for family, and personal obligations, it is the duty of elected officials to show up for their people - all of their people. I hope to see the Mayor and City Council members present at future events to show their support for LGBTQ South Dakotans and their families. It's a simple gesture, but a highly impactful one. 

Thank you,"

For more sample letters and tips on sending your messages to eleced leaders, please email me at ajorgensen@aclu.org.

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