Making Democracy Work

Take Informed Action

MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

Information is Power

Whether advocating for or against a policy, knowing the issue from both sides is critical to success.

The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, http://www.palwv.org has background information on important issues of interest to Pennsylvanians; fracking, redistricting, water resources and more. Go to the Publications page of the LWVPA website to find written resources on how to contact legislators, judge judges (often confusing for voters), an explanation of the League's positions and more.

The League of Women Voters of the US, http://www.lwv.org has background information on issues of national interest: health care, immigration reform, the environment, and much more.

ACTION ALERTS

Action at the State and National Levels in Real Time

Both the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, http://www.palwv.org, and the League of Women Voters US, http://www.lwv.org, have "Action Alerts" which give voters the information needed to act quickly on specific legislation under consideration.

Kathy Manderino on "How to Adopt a Legislator"

Former PA Representative Kathy Manderino, who served in the State House for many years, gave the League valuable advice on creating a working relationship with legislators. She advises us to adopt a legislator.

Adoption vs. Visitation Either approach is better than doing nothing, but adoption is more effective. Decide your level of commitment but don't be paralyzed into inaction.

Visitation - Slightly better than the dreaded job interview. Make an appointment. If the legislator is not available, meet with staff and treat them as professionally as you would their boss.

Explain your issue and why it is important to you and other like you. Real life stories are important.

Don't bluff. If you don't know the answer to a question you are asked, say you will find out, and then follow up. There are at least two sides to every issue, so don't be surprised to be asked the other side of yours.

Be pleasant, even if you don't agree. In politics there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent issues. Don't threaten or say you won't vote for someone unless they support your position.

Leave some literature behind with your name, address and phone number on it. Send a thank you note after your visit if you really want to make an impression.

Adoption - A bigger commitment, but greater rewards. Become a known resource and authority. Try to develop a relationship with your legislator and staff so that when your issue comes up, they will think to ask you for input.

Regular contact is important. Every few months check in with your legislator. Whether a brief phone call or letter, or forwarding an article, you will remind them that you are a resource for them on the issue that matters to you.

If appropriate, invite your legislator to see and experience your issue. The more first-hand knowledge they have about a particular matter, the better.

Connecting by Mail

Simple guidelines for writing to your elected official:

DO

Think locally. Write to YOUR legislator. They care about your opinion. The legislator ten states away does not.

Keep it simple. Identify yourself. Stick to one issue. KNOW the facts. Leave out the emotional. It can be helpful to identify the issue at the top of the letter.

Be specific. State how the issue affects you and others. If a certain bill is being considered, cite the correct title or number when possible. (Find that information at http://www.legis.state.pa.us, and http://www.senate.gov.)

One page. Keep your letter to one page if at all possible. If it's necessary, send along reference material, links to reference material, etc.

Closing. Request the action you want taken. If you feel confident enough, offer to help with testimony if appropriate. Thank your legislator for his/her time.

Finally.... The best letters are courteous, to the point, and include specific supporting examples.

DON'T

NEVER, EVER.... Never let your passion get the better of your common courtesy. And never, ever make threats. That might get you a visit from the Secret Service.

FYI, you can find your elected officials' contact information here on the Your Representatives page.