Follow Up: Here's what to do if....

…If Your Legislator is Solidly Opposed

If, prior to a vote, the legislator remains clearly opposed, it may be worth it to remind the legislator of the strength of your position and the fact that his/her vote on the issue matters to you. While you may not change the vote, you may influence the legislator to opt to do the following:

  • Decline invitations to sign a “Dear Colleague” letter circulating in opposition to your position.
  • Refrain from making floor speeches against your position—the fewer speeches in the record of a legislative body that go against the issue you care about, the better.
  • Hang back from organizing their colleagues in the state delegation to oppose your position.

If, by your lobbying, you convince your legislator to be a less vocal opponent, you have helped your cause. Advocacy is often as much about tempering or modifying opposition behavior as it is about obtaining favorable votes.

…If Your Legislator Leans Negative or is Undecided

This usually happens when:

  • The legislator is under intense pressure from other interests or colleagues.
  • The legislator genuinely thinks some opposing arguments are good, or at least worth considering.
  • The legislator has spent little or no time thinking about it.
  • Your message has not been adequately presented (sometimes by the legislator’s staff or other advocates).

How to deal with this? Try to get at the source of the hesitation, and address it as squarely as time permits by asserting your best arguments and finding new voices to bring them forward. Often, the legislative process is more complicated than a simple review of an issue’s pros and cons.

…If Your Legislator is Supportive

Supportive legislators can be made stronger allies when you ask them to do more—just make sure they know you appreciate it. Supportive legislators can do more than just vote—they can cultivate support from others. And their support shouldn’t be taken for granted.

  • Thank them for their support directly, and mention their support in any messages you send to your stakeholders about the outcome of a vote.
  • Ask them to do more:
    • Speak favorably in floor debate or in committee.
    • Initiate or send a supportive “Dear Colleague” letter to fellow legislators.
    • Speak to a key undecided or opposing legislator, or a committee chairman or floor leader.
    • Speak to colleagues in the state’s delegation.

…If Your Legislator Votes Against You

Today’s adversary may be tomorrow’s ally, so don’t burn your bridges, but don’t let the action go unnoticed, either.

  • Send a polite letter voicing disappointment in the vote, but express the hope that you can continue to discuss the issue.
  • Make sure your fellow advocates know how your legislator voted.
  • The next time a similar issue comes before the legislature, remind the legislator that there are constituents who disagreed with the prior vote.