2018 ACTION PLANS

Actions  for the week of May 14 from Indivisible Austin

You voted in the primaries. Plan to vote again in the runoffs.

You got out and voted! Now, you can get out and vote again in the runoff election.  See the candidates at the Elections page.

Important Dates

(NOTE: When you vote in the runoff you must vote in the same party election as you did in the primary. You cannot switch to vote in the other party’s election.)

Last day to register to vote: April 23

Early voting: May 14 – May 18

Election day: May 22

Texas Tribune’s guide to the runoff elections >>


Take Action

Get to Know the Primary Election Runoff Candidates

The primary election runoff is here, and there have been a slew of candidate forums and debates to help make you an informed voter.

We’ve got a rundown here >>

Vote early, May 14-18!

Early voting in the primary runoff elections begin Monday. There are runoffs in the governor’s race, in TX10, TX21, TX25, and TX31, and in other down-ballot races.

Build your Texas primary runoff ballot >>

Find your polling place:

Travis County Early Voting Locations and Hours


Call your representative to stop cuts to SNAP

About 3.8 million Texans — kids, the elderly, people with disabilities, veterans and workers who don’t earn enough to feed their families — turn to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly "food stamps") to help buy food every month. It is the nation’s most effective anti-hunger program, and 80% of SNAP participants in Texas are in families with children. Republicans are trying to sneak huge cuts to food assistance into the Farm Bill and use the “savings” to enforce compliance with the harsh new work requirements, and to fund unproven, unscalable job training programs that are unlikely to help people find work—and certainly won’t do anything to replace their lost food assistance.

Learn more about SNAP cuts and get a call script >>

That’s the backdrop for Congress’ proposal to make historic cuts to food assistance programs (SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), while also adding more work requirements. Instead of developing policies like an increased minimum wage, universal health care, and affordable child care that support workers who are currently struggling to makes ends meet, Congress proposes to cut nutrition assistance programs that primarily help low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities get the nutrition they need.

Here are the facts (via the Center for American Progress and Feeding America) to tell your representative about SNAP and why cuts to a program that HELPS people work hurts much more than it helps:

40 million Americans depend on SNAP to help feed themselves and their families

SNAP provides emergency assistance in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey

About two-thirds of SNAP recipients are children, seniors, and people with disabilities

Two-thirds of voters OPPOSE any cuts to SNAP

With SNAP, people use their benefits at local stores in their communities, supporting businesses, jobs, and local economies

Our economy is out of balance, and Congress’ decision to pass massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations means they no longer pay their fair share. Cutting nutrition assistance for children and seniors shows how Congress favors their big donors over everyday people.

You can learn more at http://www.thisissnap.org/.


Events

Monday, May 14, 1-3 PM, Texas State Capitol – Texas Poor People’s Campaign holds the first of six weeks of Nonviolent Moral Fusion Direct Actions (Facebook event)

Monday, May 14, 6:30-8:30 PM, Austin Public Library Cepeda Branch – #DecarcerateATX May meeting discusses input for community forums about making permanent our interim Police Chief Brian Manley (Facebook event)

Saturday, May 19, 10 AM-12 PM, Location TBD – TX21 Indivisibles of the Austin area hold a planning meeting; come meet, greet, and get down to work (Facebook event).


Get to Know: Austin Justice Coalition

Austin Justice Coalition (ACJ) is an organization that focuses on improving the quality of life for Black and Brown people and people who are poor. We believe change will only come if people of color and all others the pushed into the margins of society lead their own liberation. We partner with allies willing to work for and follow people of color and the impoverished. AJC has successfully lobbied for improved criminal justice policy at the Texas state legislature and led local policy reform, including significantly updating APD’s use of force policy.


Beyond local criminal justice advocacy, AJC recently joined the Project Orange initiative to register and allow incarcerated individuals, who have every legal right to vote, to exercise this right that has been essentially denied in practice. Project Orange is the brainchild of Houston Justice Coalition's co-founder and Executive Director Durrel Douglas, whose first job out of high school was as a prison guard at a Texas prison. “When we sat down to plan Project Orange, our goal was to reach out to eligible voters who are often ignored,” said Douglas. “When people have paid their debt to society, they should be able to rebuild their lives. Point blank…we want as many eligible voters to register, and vote." As part of the Project Orange initiative, volunteers will be escorted through the jail with voter registration cards that qualified inmates will be able to fill out. We hope supporters and volunteers of Austin Justice Coalition will join us in our efforts to make sure that eligible voters currently sitting in jail are able to have their voices heard.


We can use as many plenty more volunteers for this. Register to become a deputy voter registrar in Travis County—the county provides trainings on every 1st Tuesday and Saturday of the month. Then check AJC’s Facebook page for more information on completing an orientation before registering incarcerated individuals or come to our monthly meeting, the first Tuesday evening of each month. For questions please contact info@austinjustice.org or message us on Facebook for further questions.


Congress Critter of the Week

Rep. Roger Williams proudly cast a vote this week to make it possible to charge people of color more for car loans. Truth be told, every Republican member of the Texas delegation to the House voted for it, but this speaks to Roger’s special skill in using his office to enrich himself. Roger doesn't simply forget to recuse himself in matters that directly affect his business; owning a car dealership, he leads the charge, to the point where even the Congressional Ethics Committee (AKA The fox guarding the hen house committee) investigated him.

This time, House Republicans scrapped a rule that specifically prohibited charging more for auto loans based on race. Decades of research showed over and over again that auto dealerships regularly charge people of color more for loans, even when their credit scores are as good as or better than white car buyers. Soon enough, African American, Latinx, Asian, and Native American car buyers will enjoy the freedom of once again being charged more for their car loans at dealerships all across the country, including those in Weatherford (which isn’t even in Williams's TX-25).

Support Indivisible Austin

Buy a "Be a Texas Voter" t-shirt!

Archives of weekly actions >>


How to Write Letters to the Editor that Really Get Attention

Letters to the editor might not seem like the flashiest way to get your Member of Congress’s attention. But there’s something about a sharp letter to the editor in a hometown paper that can really get under the skin of the most powerful lawmaker.

In this resource, we will cover:

  • Why your MoC cares about letters to the editor
  • How to submit a letter to the editor
  • Some tricks to make sure your letter really leaves an impression with your MoC’s office

We’ll be focused on how to write letters that criticize or praise your MoC for a political position. That’s just one type of letter. Sometimes, a letter to the editor might be a smart way to respond to a negative news story. (Check with your group leadership before writing those.) Sometimes, Indivisiblers have had letters published that simply celebrate what a great new community they’ve found in their Indivisible group. (You can never have too many of those!)

WHY YOUR MOC CARES ABOUT LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

The humble Letter to the Editor has stayed influential in politics even as social media platforms have come and (some) gone. Here are a couple reasons why.

  • You MoC will likely see your letter in the morning “clips.” Every morning, Members of Congress and their staffs start their day reading “the clips,” an email with links to all of the stories that mention the MoC by name. In most offices, these include Letters to the Editor, and a letter that’s about an MoC will definitely be noticed and discussed.
  • Newspaper editors see your letter, and your MoC cares what they think.  Editorial boards are important local institutions for your MoC. They interview and endorse candidates during campaign season, and their opinions carry lots of weight all through the year.
  • Seniors see your letter, and your MoC cares what they think. Seniors are seen as one of the big audiences for letters to the editor. They also vote in big numbers, something MoCs are also very aware of.

HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR LETTER

  1. Find your local newspaper's Letters to the Editor submission email on their website.
  2. Be sure to check that you are obeying your newspaper's word limit, sometimes as low as 150-200 words.
  3. Write your letter! See more below for our tips on how to make it compelling.
  4. Paste your letter into the body of your email.
  5. Note that many newspapers will require that letter writers submit contact information with their letter. Phone numbers won't be published. This is just to verify your identity.
  6. Submit to smaller local papers, not just the nearest big city paper. You’ll have a better chance of getting published. And, it maximizes that feeling that the whole district is paying attention!

WHAT MAKES A GOOD LETTER? THE BASICS.

  • Focus on one topic. If you have two, write a second letter.
  • Obey those word count limits. If your letter gets long, write a second letter.
  • Be clear and concise—you only have around 200 words or less to make your point.
  • Be yourself. You don’t need to talk like an academic or a policy expert. Remember, you’re a smart, passionate constituent who’s paying attention, one who other constituents might identify with—and that’s the most powerful thing you can be.

WHAT SHOULD GO INTO A LETTER TO THE EDITOR?

You're already generating tons of ideas for letters to the editor in the course of the other Indivisible work you do.

You'll notice that many good letters to the editor sound similar to the call scripts we send out: a couple of points, a statistic, and a personal note. Using a call script is a great way to get inspiration!

Here are some other things you can recycle:

  • Shared a story at an empty chair town hall? Turn it into a letter to the editor!
  • Wrote a postcard at a postcard party? Turn it into a letter to the editor!
  • Wrote a thank you note on a poster? Turn it into a letter to the editor!
  • Wrote a message to your MoC on Facebook? Turn it into a letter to the editor!

HERE ARE SOME WAYS TO REALLY GET UNDER YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS’S SKIN:

Many of us who worked for a Member of Congress remember this one time a Letter to the Editor really bugged our boss and they wouldn’t let it go. Here are some of the ways to write that letter!

1. QUESTION THEIR “BRAND.”

Go to the “Biography” page your MoC’s websites to see how they describe themselves. Then play on that.

  • “Congresswoman Sara prides herself on being an independent voice that’s above the fray in Washington. But so far this year, she’s been a rubber stamp across the board…”  
  • “Congresswoman Sara ran for office as a fiscally-responsible conservative. That’s why it’s ironic that she’s considering voting for this bill, which  ___.”

2. KNOW THEIR RECORD.

Search around on the “issue” pages of your MoC’s website to learn what they’ve said in the past on an issue.

  • “Congresswoman Sara has said that she would only vote for a bill that did ___. This bill does the exact opposite: it ___.”
  • “When Congresswoman Sara was running for office, she pledged to ____. Unfortunately, it looks like she’s going to be falling in lock-step with her party and voting to ____. “

3. CALL THEM OUT-OF-TOUCH WITH THE DISTRICT.

  • “Does Congresswoman Sara think that (residents) are all ____?  What she doesn't seem to realize is that we are also __.  Her decision to ____ was extremely out-of-touch.”
  • “Congresswoman Sara must be behind the times if she thinks people from ___ are still going to let their Representative in Congress say that ___ …”

4. SHOW THEM YOU HAVE A LONG MEMORY.

Talk about an issue that’s not in the headlines to show your MoC you’re still paying attention.

  • “This Fourth of July, I am still shocked remembering Congresswoman Sara’s un-American comments on the Muslim ban, and I’m disappointed she has never apologized.”
  • “Congress may not be in session, but families around the state are still holding their breath to see what will happen with ____ bill.”

5. PUT YOUR LETTER IN LOCAL TERMS… AND PUT YOUR MOC ON THE SPOT.  

  • “My family has always gone to ____ Hospital. I’m really concerned about what would happen to it under the new bill Congresswoman Sara is considering.”
  • “With this spring’s flooding, (Town) is already feeling the effects of extreme weather. It’s amazing that Congresswoman Sara still raises any doubts about the science behind climate change..”

6. DEFY STEREOTYPES.

Many papers have frequent letter-writers who are very liberal or very conservative. Those writers can be easy to brush off. So stress any ways that you’re different.

  • “While I may not always agree with Congresswoman Sara, I have always admired her commitment to making herself accessible to constituents all around the district. That’s why I’m so disappointed that___.”
  • “I’ve supported candidates from both parties in the past. But Congresswoman Sara has really lost my respect with her steady shift towards ___.”

HOW ABOUT SAYING “THANK YOU” TO YOUR MOC?

To write a memorable letter in praise of your MoC, try these exact same tricks, but in reverse.

You will make an MoC’s day and help keep them fighting the good fight if you thank them and reinforce their brand, speak knowledgeably about their record, or praise them for being tuned in to their district.

WHAT IF A LETTER ISN'T PRINTED?

If you're letter didn't get printed, don't sweat it! It's not personal. Newspapers and only take a few letters at a time and often get hundreds of submissions. They may have gone with other topics today, but they may still print a letter of yours next week. Your letter may have helped boost the signal on others’ letters even if it wasn't published, too. When editors see a lot of letters coming in on a particular topic, they are often more likely to print at least one on the topic.

In the meantime, post the content of your letter on social media, tagging your MoC and your local newspapers.  

Ultimately, letters to the editor are a long game. Keep trying, and keep trying it with all the local and statewide papers. Your voice on these pages makes a difference.

Related Resources

Local OrganizingAugust Recess Toolkit

Group Leader ResourcesJuly Recess Action Plan

Local OrganizingHow to Form Local Partnerships (Part 1)

Group Leader ResourcesHas it really only been a few months?! Tips for making your schedule work for the long haul

Group Leader ResourcesDigital Communications Security


A Suggested Resistance Plan:

1)     Download the “Indivisible” document. Skim the philosophy. Carry out the actions which are listed above weekly.

2)     Every day, email your legislators. Check your voter registration card for who represents you. Bookmark their websites (Look at the heading above labelled Elected Officials. You can send an email from there). Calls are fine, but phones are busy; mailboxes are full.  My 7 daily emails go to: Governor, Lt. Governor, TX senator,  TX representative, US senators, US representative. Don’t bother with anyone who isn’t your legislator.

3)     Click the boxes asking to be on their mailing lists.

4)     Pick one topic each day for the US: cabinet picks, ACA, education, voter ID laws, etc. Write the same 3 or 4 sentences to each one. Do the same for the state reps.

5)     Don’t ramble, name call, curse. State your opinion. Say thanks.

6)     Visit your legislators’ local offices. Talk to their staffers. Be nice. State your message clearly.

7)     Go to your legislators’ town halls. State your opinions.

8)     Join local groups with like minds. They give you confidence, reassurance, energy to keep this up for the long haul. They will go with you to offices and town halls.

9)     Do these things. You’ll be rewarded with a good night’s sleep. 

Daily Action Alerts

Text the word “DAILY” to number 228466. Once you enter your zip code, Daily Action will send you a text each business day for an easy action step you can take.  You will be connected to your Senator’s voice mail. If the voicemail box is full, please send an email by clicking on the Elected Officials link above. You can select your Senator and easily send an email from the Senator’s contact page (See Elected Officials above).

Other 2017 action plans and helpful organizations and websites

Check out  the website Texas Legislature Online to follow bills in the 85th Legislative Session. Through this website, you can sign up to follow bills online, get information on committee members in both the Texas House and Senate, follow the calendars of each house.

Check out the state-focused nonprofit, the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), developed by progressives  in 2014 to counteract ALEC, the conservative nonprofit that produces pro-industry measures drafted by state legislatures and corporate lobbyists. You can sign up to receive emails describing what SiX is up to in the states.

Check out INDIVISIBLE: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. An even more comprehensive guide than the one described  below in 1. It was developed by congressional staffers who describe the tactics the Tea Party used to affect Congress since 2010.

Check out the Center for Public Policy Priorities website and sign-up to receive a weekly email newsletter with action items. Ann Beeson, the Executive Director spoke at the January 9, 2017 meeting and described the organization’s focus on helping Texans become healthy, well-educated and financially secure.

Below is a list of many action groups in the Austin area. Check out their websites for more info about them.

Progressive Democrats of Amierica-Central Texas Chapter-pda-centex.org

Texas Progressive Action Network (a Southwest Austin group) - https://www.facebook.com/groups/txprogressiveactionnetwork/

Pantsuit Austin - https://www.facebook.com/Pantsuit-Nation-Austin-1233236256735205/

Austin Justice Coalition - https://www.facebook.com/austinjusticecoalition/

Code Blue - www.facebook.com/groups/1809731652643344/

Left Up to Us - https://www.facebook.com/leftuptous/?fref=ts

Common Grounds - https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=common%20ground%20for%20texans

Activate Austin - https://www.facebook.com/ActivateAustinTX/

Austin Democrats Moving Forward - https://www.facebook.com/groups/AustinDemocratsMovingForward/

Northwest Hills Pantsuit - https://www.facebook.com/Pantsuit-Nation-Austin-1233236256735205/

Activate Austin - https://www.facebook.com/ActivateAustinTX/

Austin Women’s Activism - https://www.facebook.com/groups/1209126665814114/

Better Together ATX - www.facebook.com/BetterTogetherATX/?fref=ts

Move On - https://www.facebook.com/moveon/

Austin Tejano Democrats - https://www.facebook.com/groups/8310263446/

Black Austin Democrats - https://www.facebook.com/blackaustindemocrats/

Women for Good Government - http://wggaustin.wixsite.com/wggaustinhttps://www.facebook.com/groups/621916757871227/

March On! Texas – marchontexas.com

TX21 Indivisible - https://tx21indivisible.us/

Indivisible Austin – www.indivisibleaustin.com

TX 25 Indivisible We Stand - https://www.facebook.com/tx25Indivisible/

Measure Austin - https://www.facebook.com/measureaustin/

Blue Mom Group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/ATXBlueMomGroup/

Travis County Asian American Democrats - https://www.facebook.com/AustinAsianDems/

Black Lives Matter Austin - https://www.facebook.com/BlackLivesMatterAustin/

Democratic Socialists of America Austin Chapter - http://dsaaustin.org/

Capital Area Progressive Democrats - http://capdaustintx.org/home/

Stonewall Democrats - http://www.stonewallaustin.org/

Our Revolution Austin - https://www.facebook.com/OurRevolutionAustin/

Fight for 15 Texas - https://www.facebook.com/Fightfor15TX/


More Ideas:

1.  Communicate to members of congress at every opportunity. Emily Ellsworth, a former Congressional staffer, recommends the following strategies when communicating with a member of Congress:  

   a. Tweeting and Facebook posts are largely ineffective. Better to write a letter to the district office, not an email or letter to DC. The most effective thing to do is to call at the district office.

   b. Show up at town hall meetings, preferably with a large group.

   c. If you run an advocacy group, invite local staffers to your events.

   d. Remember the staff run the ground game for Congress. Be kind but firm with them.

See Emily’s complete report here.  

2. Contact your representative about current issues important to you.  Check out “We’re His Problem Now” Calling Sheet for exactly what you can say. On the site, click the Weekly Call to Action tab for updates.

3. Become a Volunteer Deputy Voter Registrar so that you can register voters for future elections. Bruce Elfant, Travis County Tax Assessor and Voter Registrar, has offered frequent training sessions. Click here for information and volunteering.

4. Express your support for the ACA.  Paul Ryan is conducting a phone poll on the ACA (Obamacare). Call 202 225-3031 and press 2 to weigh in. After a brief recording about HR-3762, Ryan’s proposal to gut ACA, you can vote 1 to support the ACA.

5. Call the House Oversight Committee (202 225-5074) to support the call for a bipartisan revew of Trump’s financials and apparent conflicts of interest. Also, use the links in the section Elected Officials to write to your senators and representatives.

6. Find out who your precinct chair is and volunteer to help. If your precinct does not have a chair, volunteer to be one. It’s not hard!!


7. Help identify potential Democratic candidates for 2018 and 2020. We need to do this now.

8. Keep up with the state legislature and attend hearings. The Texas Tribune is a great source on legislative issues. 

9. Donate to the Travis County Democratic Party and volunteer with them.

10. Volunteer at a nonprofit or public service organization.

11. Subscribe to the Washington Post or the New York Times to support the media.






© Circle C Area Democrats 2017