How to talk to legislative candidates about why you support abolition

door knockerBelieve it or not, election season is already upon us. You may have already had a candidate for the legislature come to your door to ask  for your support and to talk to you about the issues that are most important to him or her.

So, how do you broach the topic of the death penalty? What’s the best way to share your support for abolition? We’re so glad you asked! Here are some simple dos and don’ts:

Do have respectful, private conversations about the death penalty. Engaging in a one-on-one dialogue makes it easier to explore questions, share experiences, and offer resources to help someone reach a conclusion about the issue.

Don’t ask a candidate his or her position in a public forum. This can put a person on the spot before they’ve had a chance to think carefully and learn about the issue.

Do share your specific reasons for supporting abolition: you fear the risk of executing an innocent person; it is unfair in its application; its high cost ¬†wastes valuable crime-fighting resources; your faith leads you to respect all life; government shouldn’t be able to take away the ultimate liberty; etc.

Don’t shame someone for not sharing your beliefs. People don’t generally change their minds out of shame, and we want candidates to keep an open mind about this issue.

Do tell candidates that support for abolition crosses party lines. In 2013, two republicans and two democrats sponsored the bills to abolish the death penalty in Montana. Abolition supporters share common values of public safety, fiscal responsibility, and support for the families of murder victims.

Don’t assume to know a person’s position on the death penalty because of how he or she might feel about another issue.

Do let us know what you hear. The Abolition Coalition would like to follow-up with candidates and continue the conversation about the death penalty in Montana. We can also provide additional materials if they have unanswered questions. Feel free to email us or call us at 406-461-8176.

Don’t tell the press. Once a candidate’s position is “on the record,” he/she may feel like he/she is completely locked into that position. We want to create space for candidates to learn and for their positions to evolve.