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POLS 2301-Fall 2019: Out of Class Assignment – Section 05

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Assignment I: Letter to Politician – DUE: Tuesday, September 17 Please write a detailed letter to an elected politician about a political issue, upcoming legislation, or laws and rules that concern you as a citizen. MAKE sure you type your letter and print it out as you need to submit the actual letter to me typewritten in a traditional letter format for a grade AND you must also upload your letter to Blackboard for assessment purposes as ONE Microsoft Word document (letter and references must be together in ONE file). Failure to upload your document to Blackboard will be an automatic zero for the assignment. Failure to submit the document in class as a hard copy will also result in an automatic zero for the assignment. All assignments must be scanned through Safe Assign or you will receive a zero. Assignments must be uploaded as a Word file. Only one document may be uploaded, if you upload more than one document it is an automatic zero. Failure to upload your document in Word will also result in an automatic zero. So that a politician gets your letter, I recommend that you also copy and paste your letter from your document into an e-mail to the politician. NOTE – Many politicians have “comment” or letter sections on their websites for you to use but if you ONLY type your letter in the comment box you will NOT have a copy to submit to me in class. Students who receive a response to their letter (not an automated reply stating that the person will get back to them) will receive 5 extra credit points to be added to their Exam #I grade. To receive extra credit, responses must be submitted by printing them out and handing them to me in class or forwarded to me via email by November 25 . ALL assignments must be submitted as hard copies as well as being uploaded to Blackboard by the time class begins. If you will NOT be in class, you MUST submit it as a hard copy the class period before it is due.

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Who can you write a letter to? I. US Representative from your “home” district in TX (the representative who serves the Lamar University area is

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Randy Weber), to find out your representative go to http://www.house.gov/ and do the “zip code” search to find out who your representative is as you need to write to someone from where you are from.

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2. US Senators from Texas: Ted Cruz and John Cornyn (for email information www .senate.gov) 3. State Representatives – http://www.house.state.tx.us/welcome.php – click on “members” and then on the

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subsequent page, you will be able to search for your representative by zip code. (There will be several representatives who represent your zip code in the TX House). (If you live in Louisiana, please use this website to find out who represents you – http://www.legis.state.la.us/district/zipcode.asp)

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4. State Senators from TX – http://www.senate.state.tx.us/7Sr/Senate/Members.htm#FYI – you can then search on this page by your street, city and zip code (there will be two ST A TE Senators representing this area in the TX State Senate)

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5. State Governor: Greg Abbott – http://www.governor.state.tx.us/ or http://govemor.state.tx.us/organization/constituent communication/

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6. State/Federal Government Agencies – Check with me for specifics but you need to write to someone who is an elected leader. There are some departments that have elected leaders, when in doubt google the position to find out.

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7. City Councilmen, Mayors, Judges, County Commissioners, etc. – Google “City of. . . ” or “County of. . . ” and then click on the relevant website for the city or county and click on tabs for “government,” “city council,” or “contact information”.

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8. Any other elected politician that you can think of but think about the message you are sending and figure out who is most appropriate (local government, state government, federal government). You should NOT write a letter to President Trump (or a former President for that matter) or to anyone other than an elected politician. Additionally, you should ONLY write a letter to a politician who represents you (i.e. – a person representing the zip code in which you reside, so unless you live in California, you should NOT be writing Representative Nancy Pelosi). NO Letters to a politician who has not yet been elected to office, so for example, do not write to a candidate’s Exploratory Committee for President or others campaigning for office or anyone no longer in an elected office. Remember Cabinet positions are NOT elected. Before you consider writing to someone do a simple google search to make sure that they serve in an elected position.

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What should your letter be about? I. Start broad and think about a political issue that interests you or is one that you are passionate about. Think about

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community type issues that interest you – do you dislike drivers that speed on a particular neighborhood road? Would you like to see healthier selections of food at school lunches? Or maybe you would like to see a disc golf park in your area. Think about specific policies rehted to those issues and do some research.

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a. Think BIG b. Create a list of things that upset or irk you about your area, city, home, etc. c. Narrow down the list and consider the message you want to send. Try to focus on ONLY one issue.

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d. If you cannot think of anything to write about, consider looking at _minutes from recent City/Coundtyl meetings and see what issues are coming up. Look at the calendar m the US Hou_se and Senate an ook at upcoming bills. Think about your major and issues related to what you are studying, read the newspaper, watch the local news and learn about issues facing this area or the area where you are from

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2. Think about the message that you want to deliver – do you want to persuade the politician to vote a certain way? Do you want to give input about a public policy that you are interested in? Do you want to see changes to the

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policy? Etc. a. Come up with statements that will enable you to make a strong pitch . . . , . . b. Use accurate facts about the issues you are presenting – Check the polit1c1an s website to learn his/her

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position on the matter and then address the issue intelligently. IF the politician has already voted yes/no on a given issue, find something else to write about. It is imperative that you take the nece~sary steps to be educated on the issue so that if the politician voted no, you do not chastise them for votmg yes.

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c. Do NOT write to a politician to pass legislation that has already been passed or write about legislation that has failed. Do not simply write to state that you like a person or their issues. Nor should you also write a politician asking them to explain their position on an issue as for the major issues most politicians have already done so (in interviews, through their votes, on their websites, etc.).

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d. Your letter should not be an opinion piece or a stream of consciousness, you need to have a clear format with at least three paragraphs.

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3. Consider and INCLUDE statistics or infonnation that you can use to back up your point such as relevant bill numbers or other newspaper articles about a given topic. You need more than just your opinion, need facts to back up your points. You need at least THREE outside sources.

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a. REMEMBER relevance -you would not write a US Senator about a TX law, nor would you probably write to Governor Abbott about legalizing marijuana.

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b. Include both opinions and facts but do NOT plagiarize! Use direct quotes to back up points. c. Need to provide citations in the form of end notes for material that is directly copied. d. Letters that lack factual information to back up points will lose points e. lnfonnation should include citations (need at least 3-5 different outside scholarly sources), any

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instances of plagiarism will result in an automatic F being assigned for your grade in POLS 230 I. Please remember, scholarly resources would include journal articles, books, and news organization websites. Scholarly sites do not include things like social media posts, maps, costs of items, Wikipedia, encyclopedia sources, ask.com, and other similar websites and sources.

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4. Letter should not be a thank you note nor should this be a request for information or a I ist of issues the politician should address. Instead, it should be focused on a political issue or piece of legislation that is important to you and you need to explain why the issue matters.

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5. Language – Use formal language but also remember that the letter is from you so phrases like “I think” and ··1 feel” are appropriate. Do not rant nor use foul or inappropriate language that would offend tlic politician as that will not help your case.

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6. Fonnat a. Th~_letter should be in proper business format (it must have both the mailing address of the person you’re

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wntmg and your return address), with no grammatical or spelling mistakes. Your letter should be SINGLE spaced with approximately one inch margins and in 12 point Times New Roman Font. Your letter should be approximately ONE to TWO pages in length.

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b. Include your name and contact details in the top right-hand corner of the page; Include the politicians name and contact details underneath on the left-hand side of the page (think about how you would write an actual letter – use a letter template in Microsoft Word as a sample as the addresses will move around depending upon the template that you use).

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c. Form of Address 1. For Members of Congress and State Legislators (House or Senate), the salutation should be – The

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Honorable LAST NAME … . or Dear Congressman LAST NAME /Senator LAST NAME or Representative LAST NAME, etc.

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11. For County Officials – The Honorable LAST NAME (also works) 111: For a Judge – The Honorable ___ _ ____ ,, Judge of the Court of _ _ __ .

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d. Open mg – Include your ·’pitch” or your main point in the first paragraph if not in the opening sentence. Introduce yourself and_ state _why you are qualified to speak on a given issue. In this opening, you will want to state what the issue 1s and what you want to see done (action statement).

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e. Supporting Paragraph(s)- Pick at least three strong reasons why the politician SHOULD listen you about this issue (you may explain all reasons in one paragraph or devote separate paragraphs to each reason).

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f. Closing – Restate your “pitch” or your main point and THANK the politician for taking the time to read your letter. Finally, use a closing phrase and type your name.

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How will letters be graded? l . Doing a letter is NOT an automatic “A”. Instead, you must put some time and energy into drafting this letter.

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Strong letters will have well defined topics/issues and they will NOT have spelling or grammatical errors. Letters will be graded on the quality of your writing, formatting and the overall argument that you make in the letter regarding a political issue. You should write about something that interests you and impacts your life.

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2. Letters need to be to a politician that represents you; therefore, do not write to a letter to a politician for whom you are not a constituent.

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3. Letters should be about a current or timely political issue. BE sure to select an appropriate topic. Do not write about issues that have already been passed and signed into law and make sure you consider the appropriate level of government for the issue you are addressing.

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4. Letters will be graded on how well you make an argument or persuade the politician to do something so what I will be looking for is the use of relevant and appropriate information to prove your point.

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5. What should you DO in your letter? a. Write in a respectful and positive tone b. Back up your opinions with FACTS and FIGURES. Failure to include citations will result in an automatic

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20% deduction from your grade. I do not want to see a letter that is a page about a rant regarding an issue or letters that are hearsay, you need to focus on something that you are interested in but be realistic. For example, the TX legislature met from January – May 2019, so writing the legislature now about the budget that already passed is not going to get you anywhere. Additionally, writing a local office about a state problem or vice-versa will not get you anywhere either.

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c. You must have at least 3-5 citations from 3-5 different sources in your letter. These citations can be in the form of end notes or they can be done via in text citations with an accompanying works cited page. Your citations need to support the ideas in your paper and should not include quotes from random people that not directly support your points. Additionally, things like the cost of tires, a map of an area, a google image, etc. would not be considered as credible sources. Your citations should not be from Wikipedia or other similar type of sources. They should be scholarly – so no review cites or things from phone books, dictionaries, and encyclopedia’s, etc. Your sources should also be timely, you would not cite a study from 5 years ago for an issue that is current, seek out information to back up your points.

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d. Letters MUST be single spaced and in the format of a LETTER e. Be Brief but NOT too brief but definitely do NOT write more than two and half pages. f. Be organized, using a technique such as EPIC

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1. E – Engage the politician with a strong fact or statistic on your issue to GRAB the attention of the reader

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11. P- Propose – make a specific proposal or recommendation, make it absolutely clear what you are advocating for or against

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111. I – Illustrate how the proposal would work or why the issue is important & in doing so, give details or examples

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iv. C – Call to Action – in your letter, call on the politician to take a specific action g. Finish Strong and submit your letter on time to me in class and mail/e-mail your letter to the politician.

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6. What should you NOT do in your letter? a. Threats are NOT allowed, not only will this not help your cause BUT you will likely alienate the

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politician and if you are too threatening in this post 9/11 era you may receive a not so friendly visit from the law. BE NICE – confrontation and threats may make the 6 o’clock news but it will not result in a response from the politician.

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b. USE ALL CAPS – not only can this be interpreted as shouting but it is hard to read and it is unprofessional

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c. Use improper grammar, incorrect spelling and a poor style as this hurts your chances of making an effective argument

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d. State th~t you are writing a letter for your political science class as you will automatically be deducted 0. 75 points off of your grade for doing so. You need to write this letter as if you were interested in the issue(s) that you are addressing.

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e. Supporting Paragraph(s) – Pick at least three strong reasons why the politician SHOULD listen you about this issue (you may explain all reasons in one paragraph or devote separate paragraphs to each reason).

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f. Closing – Restate your “pitch” or your main point and THANK the politician for taking the time to read your letter. Finally, use a closing phrase and type your name.

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How will letters be graded? 1. Doing a letter is NOT an automatic “A”. Instead, you must put some time and energy into drafting this letter.

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Strong letters will have well defined topics/issues and th~y will NOT have spelling or grammatical errors. Letters will be graded on the quality of your writing, formatting and the overall argument that you make in the letter regarding a political issue. You should write about something that interests you and impacts your life.

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2. Letters need to be to a politician that represents you; therefore, do not write to a letter to a politician for whom you are not a constituent.

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3. Letters should be about a current or timely political issue. BE sure to select an appropriate topic. Do not write about issues that have already been passed and signed into law and make sure you consider the appropriate level of government for the issue you are addressing.

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4. Letters will be graded on how well you make an argument or persuade the politician to do something so what l will be looking for is the use of relevant and appropriate infonnation to prove your point.

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5. What should you DO in your letter? a. Write in a respectful and positive tone b. Back up your opinions with FACTS and FIGURES. Failure to include citations will result in an automatic

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20% deduction from your grade. I do not want to see a letter that is a page about a rant regarding an issue or letters that are hearsay, you need to focus on something that you are interested in but be realistic. For example, the TX legislature met from January- May 2019, so writing the legislature now about the budget that already passed is not going to get you anywhere. Additionally, writing a local office about a state problem or vice-versa will not get you anywhere either.

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c. You must have at least 3-5 citations from 3-5 different sources in your letter. These citations can be in the form of end notes or they can be done via in text citations with an accompanying works cited page. Your citations need to support the ideas in your paper and should not include quotes from random people that not directly support your points. Additionally, things like the cost of tires, a map of an area, a google image, etc. would not be considered as credible sources. Your citations should not be from Wikipedia or other similar type of sources. They should be scholarly – so no review cites or things from phone books, dictionaries, and encyclopedia’s, etc. Your sources should also be timely, you would not cite a study from 5 years ago for an issue that is current, seek out information to back up your points.

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d. Letters MUST be single spaced and in the format of a LETTER e. Be Brief but NOT too brief but definitely do NOT write more than two and half pages. f. Be organized, using a technique such as EPIC

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i. E – Engage the politician with a strong fact or statistic on your issue to GRAB the attention of the reader

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ii . P – Propose – make a specific proposal or recommendation, make it absolutely clear what vou are advocating for or against •

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111. I – Illustrate how the proposal would work or why the issue is important & in doing so give details or examples ‘

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iv. C – Call to Action – in your letter, call on the politician to take a specific action g. Finish Strong and submit your letter on time to me in class and maiVe-mail your letter to the politician

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6. What should you NOT do in your letter? ·

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a. Tru:e~t~ are N<?T allowed, not only ~ill ~his ~ot help your cause BUT you will likely alienate the poltttc1an and 1f you are too thr~atenmg m this post 9/1 1 era you may receive a not so friendly visit from the law. BE NICE – confrontat10n and threats may make the 6 o’clock news but it will not result in a response from the politician.

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b. USE AL~ CAPS – not only can this be interpreted as shouting but it is hard to read and it is unprofessional

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c. Use i~proper grammar, incorrect spelling and a poor style as this hurts your chances of makin an effective argument g

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d. State th~t you are writing a letter fo~ your political science class as you will automatically be deducted ?. 75 points off of your grad~ for doing so. You need to write this letter as if you were interested in the 1ssue(s) that you are addressing.

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