There are a number of ways that ordinary people in South Dakota can act to influence decision-makers and elected officials. One way to make your voice heard is to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Better yet, host a letter writing party! Below are some tips for successfully writing your effective letters to the editor.

The Anatomy of a Letter to the Editor

1.    Make it short and sweet: Letters to the editor should be very short and to the point. There is a 200 word limit.

2.    Tell a story: The more personal your letter is the more people you will reach. Ask yourself how the proposed legislation will impact you, your family, or friends.

3.    Problem, Solution, Action:  In each letter, you should to include the problem, the solution, and the action that you want taken.

FOR EXAMPLE:

  • Problem: Legislators have introduced a bill that would prevent transgender high school students from using the restroom representative of the gender they identify. There is increasing intolerance in South Dakota against LGBT people and legislators think they are protecting students by introducing this bill.
  • Solution: Win hearts and mind so that people understand how discriminatory this bill is. Get people to write to their legislators and understand that this bill impacts transgender students in negative way.
  • Action: Urge legislators to vote NO on this bill. Tell legislators you want them to spend time on things that matter to actual students instead of bill that only contribute to a hostile environment.

4.    Sign it and Send it! Make sure to sign your full name, and include your address and phone number. Newspapers will not print anonymous letters. Submit these letters to either the Argus Leader or Rapid City Journal, depending on where you live.

EXAMPLES:

Letter to the editor #1:

“I’m a parent of a 6 year old and I’m concerned about the treatment transgender students are receiving from legislators in South Dakota. I just moved to Sioux Falls from North Dakota and I’ve been welcomed by this sweet city with open arms. I love it here. I want to raise my family here. And that’s why I was frustrated and saddened to hear that South Dakota lawmakers had proposed a bill that would threaten the safety of high school students—the safety of my future high school student.

I badly want to believe that I live in a state where my child would be free to go to the bathroom. A state where my child won’t be bullied by adult legislators. A place where my child’s best interests are paramount.

This bill is an extreme and mean-spirited attack on students who are already a vulnerable population. We’ve all been high school students at some point in our lives, so I ask that you think back to that time and what it was like to be a student. It was difficult and awkward at time, right? Let’s support students by ensuring they are given a quality education instead of monitoring bathroom use. “

Letter to the editor #2 (re: religious discrimination bill):

"I think that religious freedom is very important, but it shouldn’t give people the right to discriminate against others. The RFRA bill that some legislators have proposed goes against the Christian values I hold so dear. I love my neighbors and I want to believe that in 2016, we are better than this. If passed this bill is going to open up the floodgates and will give people permission to use religion as a reason to discriminate against any person. I for one am disgusted by this bill and so many others I’ve seen introduced this year. Passing a harmful and blatently discriminatory bill goes against the values of South Dakotans. I urge my legislators to vote NO on HB 1111 and for my fellow South Dakotans to write and call their legislators so they can hear from the actual people they represent.”

Letter to the editor #3 (re: anti-immigrant or refugee bill):

“As a South Dakotan and descent of immigrants, I am concerned about SB 123, a bill being considered in Pierre that targets immigrants for discrimination. My grandparents came to South Dakota from Denmark in the mid-1800s. Grandpa Jorgen and his wife, Christie; moved to South Dakota to start a better life for their families. They raised four children and were well-respected by their peers. Both parents cared deeply for their family and the community of Dell Rapids. Three generations later, my parents live in that very house built in the mid-1800s and continue to be strong advocates of building community, providing for others and thriving in the (now slightly larger) town of Dell Rapids. My mother runs the local movie theatre and has made it her mission to grow this historic site.

Our story is not unique. Immigrants continue to contribute to and revive communities across our state. When I moved to Sioux Falls in 2012, I was overwhelmed by the support of our communities in this area. However, this week our state legislature began to chip away at what I thought, was a supportive and welcoming community. SB 123 is poised to negatively impact immigrant and refugee South Dakotans and our state as a whole.

This is heartbreaking and runs against everything our state is based on. I ask my friends, neighbors, and lawmakers to consider your heritage and think about how families like mine and yours would have been negatively affected by this hurtful legislation, and veto this bill. Immigrants and refugees are our friends, neighbors and families. They deserve to be embraced as a part of the community and defended from these mean-spirited legislative attacks."

Stay informed

ACLU of South Dakota is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National