Tips on How To Engage with Your Legislators

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Your elected officials need to hear from you. Whether it is a formal letter, a quick postcard, an email, or Facebook post policymakers depend on receiving information and guidance from their constituents and other citizens when deciding how to vote on important issues.

Keep it brief

The most powerful messages are sincere and written from your personal perspective and in your own words. Generally a few sentences or brief paragraphs are the most appreciated. Communications should be limited to one issue. Staff and policymakers read many communications on many issues in any given day so your letter should be short and to the point.

State Who You Are and What You Want Up Front

In the first sentence tell your elected official that you are a constituent. Identify your name and address. You should also clearly identify the issue about which you are writing. If your letters pertains to a specific piece of legislation, it helps to identify it by its bill number (HB/SB ___) or simply state the issue in general terms.

  • Example: Dear Senator, My name is Jane Smith and I live in your district at 111 Rainbow Lane on Kauai. I am writing to you about HB 5 to make our employment practices more fair. I urge you to support these values and this important bill.

Hit your three most important points

Choose the three strongest points that will be most effective in persuading policy makers to support your position and flesh them out. 

  • Example: I encourage you to support this bill because it impacts me and my family, it is important to our economy, and fairness is a value we all hold dear.

Bring a Paper about Your Issue and Action You'd Like Taken 

Leave this paper with your elected official or staff. Tell your elected official why this legislation matters to you, your family and your community. Feel free to briefly share your personal story. Policymakers use these stories in debate and in making up their mind about how to vote. This is about educating your elected officials to see things from your point of view.

Personalize your relationship

Have you ever voted for this elected official? Have you ever contributed time or money to his or her campaign? Are you familiar with her through any business or personal relationship? If so, tell them. However, you don't have to be a big donor to make a big difference. In fact sincere personal stories are always the most powerful.

You are the Expert

Always be courteous and to the point. Don't be afraid to take a firm position. Remember policymakers are learning on the job too. You have a valuable experience and expertise that helps them learn and cast their vote wisely. Don't use all caps and don't use profanity under any circumstances.

Additional Tips

  • Dress professionally.
  • Be prompt and patient.
  • Keep it short and focused! You may have as little as 10 minutes if you meet with your legislator. Make the most of that brief time by sticking to your topic and talking points.
  • Bring up any personal, professional or political connections that you may have to the elected official.
  • Provide personal and local examples of the impact of the legislation. This is the most important thing you can do in a lobby visit.
  • Saying “I don’t know” can be a smart political move.
  • Take the ‘Yes’!
  • Set deadlines for a response. Ask when you should check back in to find out what your elected official intends to do about your request.
  • Let’s debrief. We want to hear all about your event. Click here to report back on your event.

Filter Legislation

SB 1245: Jail Moratorium

This bill, companion bill HB 1082, establishes a moratorium on the construction of any new correctional facilities in the State from 7/1/2021 to 6/30/2022, including the planned construction of a new facility to replace the existing OCCC.

February 19, 2021

HB 1082: Jail Moratorium

This bill, companion bill SB 1245, establishes a moratorium on the construction of any new correctional facilities in the State from 7/1/2021 to 6/30/2022, including the planned construction of a new facility to replace the existing OCCC.

February 19, 2021

SB 149: Civil Asset Forfeiture

This bill, like SB 294 and HB 659, restricts civil asset forfeiture to cases where the property owner has been convicted of the underlying offense, but unlike the bills mentioned, allows forfeiture for certain covered misdemeanors or felonies.

February 17, 2021

SB 742: Police Data Collection

This bill requires each county police department to collect certain data regarding police stops, uses of force, and arrests, and submit to the legislature annual reports.

February 17, 2021

SB 294: Civil Asset Forfeiture

This bill, companion bill HB 659, restricts civil asset forfeiture to cases involving a felony offense, and where the property owner has been convicted of the underlying felony offense.

February 17, 2021

HB 659: Civil Asset Forfeiture

This bill, companion bill SB 294, restricts civil asset forfeiture to cases involving a felony offense, and where the property owner has been convicted of the underlying felony offense.

February 17, 2021