Once you have an overarching strategy to guide your actions, you’ll need to decide what specific tactics to use at each step. The difference between strategy and tactics is that a strategy outlines how you will accomplish your goal, but tactics are the specific actions you will take. You can think of your strategy as the road that leads to your destination, and the tactics you use as the car that you drive on that road — the former guides your progress, and the latter is what actually moves you forward. It’s important to consider what tactics you will use that fit with your strategy. For example, if you want to pass a bill through a committee, you’ll want to use effective tactics that will target the members of that committee — not other legislators who do not have power in that committee. Selecting tactics that align with your strategy is key to achieving your goals.
The more effort you put into your advocacy tactic, the better. When you show up at an office in person with a group, it signals that there is real passion for an issue among constituents. On the flip side, advocacy tactics that don’t take much effort, don’t come from the target legislator’s constituents, and don’t generate attention aren’t impactful. You should feel free to be creative and tailor your tactics to your district and group. It’s important to use a variety of different tactics so that the legislators and the local media keep paying attention.
The original Indivisible Guide laid out some core tactics for influencing your members of Congress (e.g. town halls, local public events, district office visits, coordinated calls). All of these tried and true tactics apply to your state legislators as well. However, as a state legislative advocate, you also have a few other items in your toolbox.
Impacting the Committee Process
In state legislatures, the committee process is extremely important and a time when you can be enormously impactful. If your member is on specific committees of interest to you (or, even more importantly, if your member is the chair of a committee), you can wield enormous influence over the fate of the bills heard in those committees by pressuring your member. Because you have to convince fewer members at the committee level in order to change the outcome of a vote, your activism can go a long way. You can also participate in any committee’s process as a member of the public by:
A coordinated letter about a bill from a coalition of Indivisible groups across the state to a committee can be powerful. Written testimonies often appear in legislative analyses that are written by committees.
Public testimony at a hearing allows you the opportunity to be heard directly by the decision makers who will be voting on a piece of legislation.
Lobbying your legislators
Lobbying is organizing with the intention of influencing a lawmaker’s decision through direct interaction. You can lobby in your home district office (if your state has local district offices) or at the capitol.
A bread and butter Indivisible tactic that allows you to meet with your legislator’s staff. Not all states have district offices for state legislators, but if yours does, take advantage of this to stage an impromptu town hall meeting by showing up with a small group.
A lobby day is a powerful tactic that many organizations utilize to influence the state legislative process. For a lobby day, you gather a group of people to take a trip to the capitol and hold in-person meetings with legislators and/or their staff. This tactic is powerful because you are showing commitment to your cause and meeting lawmakers in person in their place of work.
Another bread and butter Indivisible tactic. The February 2017 recess town halls were the first time Indivisibles were noticed. Who will ever forget Tom Cotton getting confronted by angry constituents?
Like town halls, these are opportunities to get face time with your legislators and make sure they’re hearing about your concerns, while simultaneously changing the narrative from “Legislator Shows Up at Event” to “Legislator Confronted By Constituents About [Issue] at Event”.
Mass calls to offices doesn’t take as much time as in-person action, but it can have a huge impact at the state level, where staffers are not used to getting a large volume of calls.