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Helpful Hints for Giving Effective Testimony

Read the rules

Read all the rules of testifying in your state carefully. For example, there may be time limits to your testimony. If the hearing is held online, you may be required to turn on your video. You will likely need to register to attend the hearing by a certain date. Each state has its own rules regarding testimony, so make sure you read and follow them all.

Provide evidence of your community

This can be quantitative (numerical) data or, more commonly, qualitative (verbal) evidence. What are the common concerns, issues, or challenges facing your community? What are the typical jobs or industries that people work in? What are the community spaces — parks, business districts, etc. — where people spend leisure time? Provide compelling reasons for what binds your community together and why it should be kept whole for the purposes of representation. At the same time, you may want to argue for keeping two communities in separate districts.

Strength in numbers

Testimony is more impactful when you are able to (truthfully!) claim that you are representing a certain number of people, or coordinate your testimony with others in attendance. If you’re not part of a community group, reach out to one! If you are already part of a group, make sure you say that in your testimony. It is more effective when individuals work together to define and map out their community together.

Personalize it

Make sure to tell your story. Even if you are coordinating testimony with others, provide your individual perspective on what binds your community together, where the boundaries of this community are, and why it is important that this community be kept whole for the purposes of representation. You might also describe how past redistricting has negatively impacted your community.

Map it out

The most effective way to make the case for your community is to link your testimony with a map. Providing clear boundaries — and justifications for those boundaries — provides more evidence that the community is well defined, and is more likely to be incorporated into the final maps. If you can’t specify exact boundaries, try to be clear about what areas should be kept whole, and what areas can be kept separate.

Stay focused

Even if there are no formal time limits to your testimony, you should aim to keep it concise: no more than three to five minutes at the most. Keep your comments focused on redistricting; there will be other forums and opportunities for input on other topics. If your state explicitly requires communities of interest to be considered in redistricting, you may also review and reference that language in defining your community.

Be courteous

It may sound obvious, but legislators and commissioners are people, too. They may be required to include your comments in the public record, but you are more likely to be heard if you deliver your comments respectfully. It never hurts to thank the legislators or commissioners for their time, and the opportunity to speak.