Letters and emails are a tried and true advocacy tactic.
With the exception of those in leadership roles, many elected officials have no staff or admin team. That means the majority of time, they’re the ones who are answering when constituents write in.
The amount of mail an elected official gets on a certain issue can help determine its importance in their eyes. For example, if an elected official is getting a dozen or so emails and letters saying “vote NO on XYZ,” it will make a big impression, if it doesn't there's a recourse for that.
As with any other meeting or communication with your elected official, timing, tact, and delivery is key. Be tactful, be honest, and share a 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:
Every elected official should have a state issued email address, which means the note you send should be securely recieved. Keep in mind during the legislative sessions or busier times of year, your lawmaker might be away from their desk during normal hours or they might not get your note in time for a crucial vote. In times of urgency, consider calling or showing up to their office or the Capital.
Tips for writing to your elected official:
Make it short and sweet: If your elected official is receiving dozens of correspondences about certain hot-button issues, you’ll want to make your point quickly and directly
Tell your story and/or make it personal: The more personal your letter is, the more compelling it will be. Tell your elected official how their decisions affect you, your family, and your friends.
Problem, solution, action: In the letter be sure to include the problem, the solution, and the action you want taken (i.e. “Trans kids are under attack and it is your duty to defend the people you were elected to represent. Vote on on HB 123.)”).
Tell them you’ll be back: If your letter requires a response, which is likely will, be sure to note that you plan to follow up within 48 hours if you don’t hear back from your elected official and will do so via phone call or follow up email.
A well-written, personal letter or email is an invaluable way to make your voice heard.
"Senate Bill (SB) 1234 undermines the ability of women and families to make personal and private medical decisions. They also dictate the relationship between health care providers and their patients, putting patients' health at risk.
It’s 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 with little to no medical knowledge dictate how South Dakota women are supposed to access reproductive health care.
Don’t allow far-reaching bills to go further. You can put private and personal health decisions back where they belong - in the hands of every South Dakotan, their family and their doctor. Please VOTE NO on SB 1234."