In our latest members' email, we encouraged members to sign and send a letter to a state representative encouraging her committee to take up our election integrity legislation.
I received this response from a member:
I'm told that sending form letters is not as effective as doing your own... In the past, these forms are just tossed out... It seems the Pols prefer your own words.... And, it is a form of spam. So, just copy, paste, reword your own way and send off.
She has a kind heart, and I know where she's coming from.
But this is incorrect.
And it's actually one of the big myths in politics, perpetuated by the politicians themselves.
Notice how it benefits politicians for people to think they don't care about "form letters." Many people don't have the time to write a personal letter. Some people aren't confident in their mastery of an issue, or their writing skills in general.
If every constituent had to write a personal letter, politicians would get fewer letters. They like it that way. They don't want to be troubled to respond. They don't want to be "pressured" by the will of their constituents. They want to be on voters' minds as little as possible.
Writing a letter to a politician isn't about changing their minds or pulling their heartstrings. If a politician isn't already motivated to do the right thing, it isn't because he (or she) doesn't know it's the right thing.
Politicians are, with few exceptions, motivated by their own ambitions. Those in tough districts are desperate for re-election. Those who aren't are desperate to make sure they maintain (or reclaim) the majority, and want to lead their caucus or run for higher office.
When a politician receives a "form letter" from 100 constituents, how does that compare to 100 personal letters on the same issue?
It's exactly the same. It's 100 concerned constituents.
Not only does it not matter whether it was a personal letter or a "form letter" -- the form letter is actually more powerful.
Because the "form letter" sent by lots of people is lots of people, with an organization behind them.
An organization with a list.
An organization that might contact that list again, should the politician do the wrong thing.
When politicians get letters from angry voters on any given issue, the most important question to them is: How many people are mad about this?
The "form letter" makes it easier to give them a truer figure.
Sign those petitions, folks. The politicians in Lansing are counting the signatures.