Letters and emails are a very useful advocacy tactic.
With the exception of those in leadership roles, most state legislators have no staff. That means the majority of time, they’re the ones who are answering when constituents write. The amount of mail a legislator gets on a certain issue can help determine its importance in their eyes. For example, if a legislator is getting a ton of emails and letters saying “vote NO on this bill,” it’s bound to make a big impression.
As with any other meeting or communication with your legislator, 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:
All legislators have a state email address; most list their home address and telephone number. Keep in mind during the legislative session they spend the majority of the week in Pierre, so if you’re sending physical/snail mail they may not receive your letter in time for key votes.
Tips for writing to your legislators:
Make it short and sweet: If your legislator is receiving a ton of mail about certain hot-button issues, you’ll want to make your point quickly.
Tell a story: The more personal your letter is, the more compelling it will be to your legislator. Tell your legislator how bills will affect you, your family, or your friends.
Problem, solution, action: In the letter be sure to include the problem, the solution, and the action you want taken (i.e. “Vote no on HB 1234!”).
A well-written, personal letter or email is an invaluable way to make your voice heard.
Sample letter to legislator:
"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 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 with little to no medical knowledge dictate how South Dakota women are supposed to access reproductive health care.
Please don’t allow these far-reaching bills 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."