10 (easy) Ways to Stay Civically Engaged

In such a heated political climate, it's more important than ever to stay politically engaged. Check out our easy list of ways you can remain civically involved! 

By Steph Black

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1) Register to vote

If you want to vote, you have to register. Unfortunately, the process can be pretty confusing depending on where you live. Luckily, there are about a dozen different websites to help you with the process. To register yourself for the first time, check out vote.gov. To double check where you’re registered, look yourself up at https://www.headcount.org/verify-voter-registration/.

2) Register your friends to vote

Seriously, check with your friends! You’d be surprised how many young people don’t know how to register or simply haven’t gotten around to it. Throw a registration party with patriotic-themed drinks and snacks. Text your friend a gif of Elizabeth Warren every day until they mail in their form! Sit down and do it with them.

3) Vote

That’s right folks, do your civic duty. Find your polling place here https://www.headcount.org/find-your-polling-place/. Carpool with your friends and take a ton of selfies. Drive your elderly neighbors too. And wear your ‘I voted!’ sticker with pride.

4) Vote in local elections

This one is crucial! Even though it’s challenging to find information about the candidates, and voting regulations are not always made clear, voting locally can impact your life in more direct ways than a national election can. Local elections can control: school quality, policing and public safety, rent costs and affordable housing, public transit, alcohol and marijuana ordinances, city colleges, and job training programs. Additionally, local governments can act differently when the federal government won’t. Having strong local leadership to take a stand against policies you don’t agree with in the federal government is a must. To find out more about your local election, check out https://www.usa.gov/election-office or https://www.headcount.org/state-local-elections/ for how to vote locally and https://www.headcount.org/state-local-elections/ to set up a reminder for when your elections are happening.

5) Educate yourself about candidates/policy/party

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Be smart! Who you vote for matters and making sure you’re voting for candidates who represent what you believe in is a must. https://www.isidewith.com/ is a super cool quiz you can take that will guide you on which candidates reflect your values as a citizen.

 

6) Contact your representatives

Once you elect your candidate, your work isn’t over! We all know that candidates sometimes make empty promises during the campaign cycle or flip-flop on key issues. There are lots and lots of ways to reach them, but an easy one is through Resist.bot! Just Text the word RESIST to Resistbot on Telegram, Messenger, Twitter or to 50409 on SMS* and it’ll find out who represents you in Congress and deliver your message to them in under 2 minutes. No downloads or apps required.

7) Lobby

If you ever get the chance to come to DC or your state’s capital, make an appointment to lobby! Simply call the right office and ask to set up a meeting. Likely, you’ll meet with a staffer and not your actual representative. But don’t be discouraged; they’re the ones who keep track of the important information! Pick one or two key issues you care about and do your research. Has your representative voted on this? Discussed this? Are they on a committee on the issue? Then, come up with an ask. “Continue to support XYZ bill” or “stop taking funding from XYZ company.” Feel free to leave any handouts or information. Keep it succinct. And then thank your representative for meeting with you! (And don’t forget to snap a selfie).

8) Submit comments

Public comment is another way to stay engaged. Public commenting is a mechanism that is already built in to the federal rule-making process. Any federal agency can implement laws passed by Congress through rules and regulations. When any federal agency needs to create a new regulation, it starts with a regulation proposal in the Federal Register and then agency is then required to request comments on that proposal by all members of the public. Your comments should be unique, fact-based, and succinct. Some effective writing tips can be found here http://eli-ocean.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/2/files/Written-Commenting.pdf. Check out the official guidelines for submitting comments here https://www.regulations.gov/docs/Tips_For_Submitting_Effective_Comments.pdf.

9) Run for office

There are so many ways and reasons to run for office. And I promise you, you’re qualified. Check out http://www.sheshouldrun.org/, and attend their incubator, which is a series on online, self-paced courses which will walk you through each step of running.

10) Volunteer on a campaign

This could be canvassing on the street, making phone calls, texting voters, filing emails and letters, doing social media, and much more. Campaigns thrive on volunteers and are a crucial aspect of creating a well-rounded campaign. Your work can make a huge difference in getting people to turn out on election day!

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Steph Black is a Senior at American University studying Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. When not talking, reading, or writing about Judaism and feminism, she's usually hanging out with her cat, Goose or with friends downtown.