How to get involved in local politics

How to get involved in local politics

Our previous post, 25 reasons why you should get involved with your local government, received a tremendous response from the community. We also received a multitude of follow up questions; and one of the recurring questions echoed by various constituents was, “How do I get involved in the local government?”

In this post, we bring you thirteen ways you can get involved in your local government and be the change you want to see in your community:

Each city and county have multiple boards, committees, and commissions; for example, the city of Phoenix has 60+ boards and commissions for its constituents to join. All you must do is go to your city’s website, find the board or commission that resonates with you and apply to be a part of it.

PrimeGov provides a robust solution for all the cities and counties to manage their boards and commissions. Our solution is used by the City of Pleasanton to effortlessly manage their end-to-end applicant tracking process for all their boards.

2. Attend city meetings

City council, the board of education, and other board meetings are typically open to the public. Go to your city’s website, where you can see the schedule for all the council meetings. As a constituent, you should attend all the meetings that are open to the public. It is a great way to learn about your local government’s inner workings and see your representatives in action.

3. Tune in to local radio stations

Local radio stations often have programs that specifically focus on the local government’s workings and public issues. Your local radio stations will keep you informed on what is going in your area. Tune in to a few of the programs to learn about the key topics, initiatives, and perspectives to educate yourself, and you can participate in those shows by dialing in as an active listener.

4. Join a campaign

During the election, candidates are always looking for an extra hand. It is your opportunity to join a campaign to understand how it works and to make connections.

5. Serve as a poll worker

You can volunteer to work as a poll worker during the elections. There might be age and residency requirements, so please check with your local city council. Volunteering is a great way to learn about the inner workings of a campaign. This experience could be very beneficial to you if you decide to run for government office yourself in the future.

6. Connect with your local representatives

In today’s digital age, almost all local representatives have some social presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. You can follow them on social channels, ask questions, engage with them publicly and let them know how you think they are doing.

Local politics and non-profit organizations rely heavily on donations. Donate what you can to support the causes you are passionate about.

There is no better way to spearhead changes for the causes you are passionate about than running for government office yourself. Discover the office/position you want to run for, gather the application information, knock on the doors, get support, reach out to non-profit organizations, prepare a plan, and run for office.

9. Work for a political organization

Getting involved in the day-to-day activities of a political organization will give you insights into the workings of the local government. You can join a local political organization and help recruit, train, and support other candidates running for office. You can spend a few hours per month working for a political organization and learn about the decision-making process and how you can influence them in the future.

After a local candidate has put in the work to win a seat, it’s essential to support the candidate to make right on their campaign promises. Stay involved with the elected officials that you resonate with and support during the election.

11. Attend a rally or a protest

The year 2020 has been the year of rallies and protests. If you are passionate about a cause and want to connect with other like-minded individuals, join and attend a peaceful demonstration. I attended various Black Lives Matter protests this year and had the honor of meeting remarkable individuals passionate about the cause. We formed great friendships and often met for coffee to discuss local political activities.

12. Join a non-profit organization

As I started exploring non-profit organizations, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many there are. Our team is in conversations with leaders from Education Equity, Vote Mama, She Votes, and many others to create collaborative campaigns to promote these organizations. You, too, can research and get involved in a non-profit organization close to your heart and make a difference.

Finally – don’t forget to VOTE. If you are eligible to vote in your local elections, please do so. Go to your city election or DMV office, and you can register to vote.

The suggestions above are just the tip of the iceberg. As your schedule permits, you can choose any number of activities to get involved in.

If you have additional ideas on how to get involved, please share them with us, so as a community, we can all learn, participate, and make the change we want to see.

Find out how you can engage with government directly, and take part locally, nationally or internationally.

Engage with government

You can give your views on new or changing government policies by responding to consultations. Government departments take these responses into consideration before making decisions.

Respond to consultations

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Start a petition

You can create a petition to influence government and Parliament. If the petition gets at least 100,000 online signatures, it will be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

Follow a blog or social media channel

For an instant way to interact with government departments, try their social media streams. These are listed under ‘Follow us’ on the department’s home page. As well as access to blogs, audio, video and more, you can comment, debate and rate.

Our country is at a turning point and as more and more people demand justice for Black men and women, you may be wondering how you can get involved and make a difference. One key way is to get involved in your local government. Did you know that there are over 500,000 elected offices in the United States and that most of them sit within 89,000 local governments? Local governments run our city utilities, libraries, fire departments, public swimming pools, parks, local law enforcement, and schools, just to name a few. Local government consists of city councilmembers, mayors, county commissioners, sheriffs, and school boards.

In his article, “How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change,” former President Barack Obama highlights , “It’s mayors and county executives that appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police unions. It’s district attorneys and state’s attorneys that decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct. Those are all elected positions. In some places, police review boards with the power to monitor police conduct are elected as well.”

Local government touches every aspect of your life and affects how well you and your fellow community members can thrive in society. If you aren’t sure where to start with local government, here are three first steps.

Attend (Or Virtually Attend) a City Council Meeting

There’s hardly anything in your life that your local government doesn’t have some influence over. The easiest way to know exactly what your local government does and who is a part of it? Attend their meetings.

The agendas of city council meetings are available publicly on your local government’s website. If you want your city council to address an issue you care about, you can request they add it to their agenda. Once you are at the meeting, listen closely to what topics are presented and how your city councilors address them. What are their solutions? What are their thoughts and ideas for making your community a better place to live?

Often, city council meetings will have a reserved time period, either at the end or the beginning, for citizen participation. This is when you can verbally share your thoughts on a particular subject. Maybe you don’t like that tax increase or you want to see state grant money go to a particular service. City council meetings are the place for you to share that opinion. Your local government wants to hear from you so they can make an informed decision that addresses the concerns of their constituents.

To find when your local government’s meetings are and the agenda, google your town or city’s name and “city council meetings.” Ask a friend to join so you’re not alone!

Join a Board or Commission

Are you looking for volunteer experience and have some free time on your hands to give back to your community? Try joining your town’s local board or commission. Many cities and counties have appointed local boards and commissions who advise the local government on a number of policy issues from public safety, education, housing, and economic development. Boards and commissions enable citizens to get involved in the policy-making process and allow for a broader perspective to be considered when a City Council is making decisions.

For example, in Washington, D.C. they have a Commission for Women that consists of 21 members appointed by the Mayor of the city. The commission focuses on conducting studies and making recommendations on the areas of ending discrimination based on sex, equal pay, education equality, and new and expanded services for women in the D.C. area.

In Collingswood, New Jersey, they have a Historic Board that works to “to safeguard Collingswood’s rich architectural heritage and history. ”

In Baltimore, Maryland, they have a Civilian Review Board that is “an independent agency in the city through which members of the public can issue a complaint against officers of various law enforcement units.”

If you’re under 18 and want to get involved, no problem! Many towns have their own Youth Advisory Councils that serve as a way to get young people involved in local government and learn how policy is made. Take the city of Winston Salem, North Carolina for example . They have twenty appointed positions for youth to join and get involved in their city’s community programming.

Boards and Commissions are almost always unpaid, volunteer positions, and they are great stepping stones to understanding how your local government works, meeting new community members, and exploring what life in public leadership could look like for you. To find out what boards and commissions are offered in your town, start by googling your local town or city’s name and “Boards and Commissions” or you can head to your city’s local government website.

Volunteer for A Local Candidate’s Campaign

Not ready to fully step into the candidate position just yet but curious what goes into running for local office? Start by volunteering for your local candidate’s campaign. Local elections happen every single year across the country so be sure to check when your state’s elections for state and local government are.

Local candidates will often rely heavily on volunteers to help them get out the vote, host events, and spread the word about their campaign. Volunteers often go door knocking, which is going door to door in a certain area to share information about your candidate and ask citizens who they plan on voting for on Election Day. This is a great way to learn more about what your community is looking for in its leadership and get to know the lay of the land.

And if you’re interested in running for local office one day, there’s no better way to learn how to run a campaign for a local position than to join one yourself. You’ll get to know the candidate more personally than you would for a congressional race and see up close what the day-to-day of a local campaign is like.

Next time you see a yard sign with a candidate’s name or hear about someone running for city council in your town, check them out. Read their story, their platform, and sign up to volunteer. If they don’t have a volunteer sign up option on their website, call them or send them an email letting them know you’re interested in volunteering. Trust me, they won’t say no.

Your local government needs your voice. These are just a few ways to start getting involved and after you start getting involved, who knows? You just might want to run for office yourself. After you’ve picked how you’re going to get involved in local government, join our community and let us know how it went.

Enjoying our blog content? Help pay it forward so more women are able to wake up to their political potential. Donate to support She Should Run.

In recent weeks, protests against racism and police brutality across the nation have strengthened a sense of political activism in the United States. But while this moment of galvanization is a great start, it's important to remember that we can't lose momentum — and that this is a movement that has to go beyond a moment. We have to continue to fight for what we believe in. That means participating in politics and continuing to speak up.

Getting politically active may feel intimidating if you're not sure where to start, but it's never too late to get involved and make your voice heard. Here's a primer of some of the most essential steps you can take.

Register yourself and others to vote.

How to register yourself to vote: 

If you haven't already done so, register to vote — not only for the presidential election this November, but also for your local elections. Make sure you check with the U.S. Vote Foundation or your state or territory’s election office to find your state’s deadline for registration for an upcoming election.

Currently, 39 states plus the District of Columbia allow online voter registration. If your state is one of them, you can go to Vote.gov and enter your state to be redirected to the right site to register. If your state doesn’t offer online voter registration, you can register to vote by mail with the National Mail Voter Registration Form. You can also register in person at your local board of elections office, but with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it may be safer to register remotely if you can.

How to register others who are eligible: 

It's also important to encourage others around you to register, as well — even those who may feel apathetic about it or feel as if their voices won't be heard.

"You have to remind folks that their vote does matter, especially the more local ones," says Alexis Magnan-Callaway, the national mobilization director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "A lot of local races are decided within the margin, so just a few votes can make a difference."

There are two main ways you can do this. The first is to share the voter registration forms on social media (you can find them here). The second is to do it in person by handing out forms and volunteering.

Voting (especially during a pandemic).

Amid the pandemic, more states have made it easier for people to vote by mail. According to the Open Source Election Technology Institute, 46 states now offer every eligible voter the option to mail in their ballot. To vote by mail, you can start by checking your state's absentee ballot rules and apply for your ballot on Vote.org.

While there's been controversy over mail-voting fraud, the number of actual potentially fraudulent mail-in ballots (such as double voting or voting on behalf of deceased people) has been found to be 0.0025% — too statistically small to actually make a difference.

What is a very real threat in our elections, however, is voter suppression, which is when actions are taken to purposefully make it more difficult or impossible for people to vote. Marc Elias, a political law attorney and founder of Democracy Docket, says we've already seen voter suppression in recent weeks in the hours-long lines at polling stations in Georgia.

"The single biggest way we’re seeing voter suppression right now is inadequate polling locations," he says. "We saw four- or five-hour long lines in Georgia because there was massive failure of voting machines. People literally didn’t have machines to vote on."

Voter suppression has historically targeted minorities and young people, and, Elias says, benefits "candidates who perform better among older white voters, which tend to be Republicans."

Canvas for a candidate.

Voting isn't the only way to make your voice heard and make a difference. If you're passionate about getting involved in politics, one way to do so is to volunteer for a campaign or canvas for a candidate.

Naureen Akhter, a deputy district director who began volunteering for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's campaign after seeing the now-congresswoman speak at a rally in 2017, says the most effective way to engage is to show up.

"The real change comes from the bottom up," Akhter says. "If we are tired or disappointed with systemic problems in our country, the way to change it is for each of us to get more involved locally and change the political structures around us."

Akhter, who began with phone banking and then offering to help Ocasio-Cortez collect signatures in Jackson Heights, adds that it's best to start locally. Before COVID-19 hit, that may have meant physically showing up to spaces where people are meeting and showing up to campaign offices. Now, we might have to get more creative.

"That will entail showing up virtually by following candidates on social media, where they’ll often put out calls to action like phone banking events," Akhter says. "If you do have an hour of time on a weekend or money to donate or friends you can share info to, these actions work collectively to amplify your candidate and push their agenda forward. 

Magnan-Callaway also advises starting with a cause you're passionate about — whether that's climate change, racial injustice, or education — and doing some research on local organizations whose work aligns with your passions.

Follow leaders and organizations.

Beyond participating when you can, it's also essential to stay informed and up-to-date.  You can do so by following voting organizations that not only fund candidates but keep followers informed about specific issues.

A non-profit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to increase participation in elections and close the race and age voting gap.

An organization that promotes fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourage voter participation in elections, and educate voters about elections and their voting rights.

An organization dedicated to recruiting and supporting young candidates running for down-ballot office.

A nonpartisan nonprofit working to increase the number of women considering a run for public office.

A national organization dedicated to convening, connecting, and amplifying voices in the fight for full gender equity.

Fight for others’ right to vote.

Who can vote?

To be able to vote in the U.S., you have to be a U.S. citizen, turn 18 on or before Election Day, and meet your state's residency and registration requirements. Unfortunately, many people still can't vote, including some people convicted of a felony, undocumented immigrants, and people in Puerto Rico (who can vote in primaries, but not federal elections).

If you want to fight for other people's right to vote, Magnan-Callaway suggests joining in on campaigns and organizations that are working to extend voting rights. One example is the Our City, Our Vote campaign, which advocates for legislation that would restore municipal voting rights to New York City residents with lawful presence. Elsewhere, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition is working to end disenfranchisement against people with convictions.

When it comes to voter suppression, Elias says, "What’s really important is that people speak out. I cannot emphasize how much power people have in fighting voter suppression by speaking out about it and making their voices heard. It’s important that people hear from the public and that we shine a light on it."

Most political complaints on social media and in the news are tied to federal policy or other actions implemented by the federal government. Whoever is President at the time generally receives the shame and blame for everything from economic downturns to the latest Supreme Court decision. Grumbling on Twitter doesn’t count as action, so how can individuals become more than keyboard warriors?

Turning one’s eyes from national politics to the local scene is the ideal first step, but it can be tough to get started. Fifty-six percent of Americans voted in the 2016 Presidential election and 49% in the 2018 midterms. Most of those people likely believed they were fulfilling their primary civic duty, but Election Day is only one facet of political opportunity to make an impact. It’s time to explore avenues beyond the status quo.

Unfortunately, the country has seen a massive downturn in participation on local civic duties in past decades. In his acclaimed book, Bowling Alone , sociologist Robert Putnam documents this trend, noting that the shrinkage of office seekers means we lose tens of thousands of potential candidates to choose from locally and beyond.

“It’s impossible to know what price we paid collectively for the loss of these potential grassroots leaders — not only in terms of talent and creativity — but also in terms of competitive pressure on incumbent office holders,” writes Putnam (p. 42).

Putnams’ research dates back to 2000, but running for local government office isn’t popular today either: only 2% of Americans have ever done so. Less participation in civics generally means far fewer people attending city meetings, joining committees, leading organizations or working on campaigns as well. Social media activism makes people feel they are participating, but status updates and meme-sharing only goes so far.

So how can you actually make a difference? Here are seven ways:

1. Know your local leaders & what they stand for . Every community has county and city government positions filled by Council members, school board members, committee members and a variety of other elected positions. Most of these individuals have websites, social media profiles, or LinkedIn pages. Do your homework to identify the people making decisions for your city. Many policies that affect your life will be handed down from the state or county, so identify what they are so you’ll know how and when to speak up.

2. Attend public meetings. Most county governments hold regular public meetings for citizens to attend. Times, dates and locations can often be found on the official city website. If you can’t attend in person, sometimes, they are even live-streamed. This is the best way to be in-the-know about what’s coming up and have a say before something you don’t want to happen moves too far forward.

3. Call in and ask questions. Every politician has a phone number, and all messages are documented and tallied. Even better, show up at town hall meetings or coffee shop gatherings and voice your questions or concerns in person. Sometimes politicians aren’t aware of how a particular policy or issue truly affects a particular group of people. It’s those who make an effort to be heard that echo in the ears of a legislator when they go to craft or change policy in the future.

4. Be involved in community organizations. You don’t have to be working within a strictly labeled “political” entity to be participating in the process of local politics. By becoming a member of local organizations and groups in your interest area, you become intimately aware of how policies affect the people and ideas you care about. It may just motivate you to do something more.

5. Identify your core issues & get to work. What are the most important issues to you, and how do you want to see them addressed in your own neighborhood? Whether it’s property taxes being too high or restrictions on purchasing alcohol on Sundays, figure out where the issue is in writing and how you can go about changing it. Which lawmaker or elected official has the power to bring the issue to light and make a change? Get to know them.

6. Volunteer for a campaign. People running for office always need volunteers, so if someone stands for what you believe in — give them a hand. Because elections are every two years, there’s always a campaign somewhere either starting or ramping up. Your special skills, whether they be marketing, communication, fundraising or strategizing, could be extremely useful in helping get someone elected. Partisan politics may get a bad rap, but we still need good people to fight the good fight for what they believe in.

7. Run for office. If you’re really serious about making a change at the local level, consider running for office. Explore what openings there are and decide how your presence could actually create change. Even if you don’t think you can win, running gives you a platform to speak about the issues that matter — which can also make a difference in the long run. Depending on where you live, sometimes there isn’t even a challenger, so you could be a shoo-in.

Politics isn’t a dirty word — it’s a tool citizens have to use to advocate for the people, policies and ideas they care most about. Complaining about taxes or your Congressman only adds to the negativity. Implementing the ideas listed above is the way you can empower yourself to truly make a positive difference in your community, your country and your world.

Ericka Andersen is a freelance writer and digital media marketing professional. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post.

I have to admit that until recently, I had little interest or awareness of local politics. Embarrassingly, my dad is actually a political journalist, specialising in local politics. He even has two published books out on politics, that I haven’t read (soz dad). As I became older, I was slapped with the fact that politics is connected to well, everything. I realised the irony of complaining about environmental and social issues, when I hadn’t even voted every year (the UK is not compulsory voting).

When I moved to Australia six years ago, I became even more aware of the importance in engaging in local politics instead of just being p*ssed off at the useless leaders of both my home country (UK) and my current country (Australia) – even Taylor Swift knows the importance of political awareness.

Aside from focusing on main leadership, which should normally only change every four years, local government is also really important to be aware of. Local government, elected by citizens of that area, look after their specific communities: city utilities, local public services etc. They can create a big difference in the local areas we live in, so here are some tips for getting more involved in your local politics!

How to get involved in local politics

1. Research

Politics in different countries and even states can be really confusing. People rely on voting to be clear, however it’s really not. People need to learn this sh*t in school, sadly they don’t. Understand the voting system, why people vote for different people and how people win. Sign up to vote and make sure to vote in time . Then you won’t be completely surprised when the same outdated white man wins as your local electorate – and you’ll understand how to create change for next time.

Take a quick look at this Australian Politics for Dummies Cheat Sheet, it’s got everything you need to know.

2. Guess who

The first point of call is to find out who’s who. Do a quick online search of the government’s structure, your local council by state and who your local elected representative. This person is your key contact, note their email and phone number – they represent YOU in issues you care about.

3. Follow your council (not literally)

Once you’ve found your council, follow them on social media and keep up to date with what’s happening in your local area. You can also read newspapers, online or offline, to follow local government news, changes in policies as well as elected public officials who are embroiled in corruption scandals.

How to get involved in local politics

4. Get vocal

Remember to phone and / or email your local representative if you have something important to discuss or voice. There’s also a lot of meetings and opportunities to input your voice, for example Town Hall meetings are announced across council’s social media and give local people the opportunity to interact with their local representatives and local issues.

5. Donate your time

It can be really rewarding to get directly involved with your local community. Volunteer for local council events (these are normally announced on social media or website) or even assist a local representative that you support. This could be as little as wearing their shirt, handing out flyers at your local markets or put their poster in your window or fence!

6. DIY

If there’s no-one out there that aligns with your values or they aren’t doing a good enough job – do it yourself. You can join an existing party or run as an independent candidate. Here is a full guide on joining local politics and working your way up! You can also jump on to your local council’s website as it will have an information guide on where to start if you’re considering becoming a councillor.

Recommending reading:

Feature image of Mona Hecke, a qualified Australian naturopath who is running as an independent candidate in the 2020 Gold Coast Mayoral Campaign.

If you find a political party that you agree with you can pay a fee (usually only small if you’re under 25) to join the party. This allows you to get more involved in the party, helping them campaign for upcoming elections and you may even be invited to attend events.

Sign or create a petition.

E-petitions are an easy way for you to influence Government. You can find petitions to sign on the E-petition website or create an e-petition about anything that the government is responsible for and if it gets at least 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in the House of Commons, where MPs will debate the issue and may even act on it.
Learn More E-Petition Website

Speak to your MP in person or via a letter or email.

If you’re not happy with something in your local community you can write to your MP or Local Councillors and ask them for their help. They’re often more eager than you think to help in whatever way they can. Most MPs try to respond to all of their correspondence (as long as it’s sensible).

Get involved with pressure groups and campaigns.

Pressure Groups are organised groups of people who come together, outside of the government, with a common cause in order to influence government policy. Some notable examples include Greenpeace, BMA (British Medical Association), CBI (Confederation of British Industry), the National Trust, and groups like the RSPCA. See Wikipedia’s List of UK Pressure Groups.

These groups may also inform you about protests and demonstrations. These groups usually combine like-minded people in order to make a bigger impact on parliament than individuals alone.

Submit evidence to a committee inquiry or on a bill.

Committees work in both Houses (Lords & Commons). They check and create reports on areas ranging from the work of government departments to economic affairs. Results of these inquiries are public and many require a response from the government. When a Select Committee launches a new inquiry they often request written evidence from people who have an interest in the topic.

Committees considering a Public Bill may also choose to request written evidence from relevant organisations and the public. They can also hear oral evidence from interested individuals, just like select committees, as part of their consideration of a Bill (find out more).

These committees often hear from the same experts and private companies, so they are often really interested to hear points of view from the public. If you need some advice about submitting evidence to a committee give them a call, they’re very friendly and happy to help!
Open Calls For Evidence Learn More About Select Committees

Despite the attention grabs coming out of Washington, there are many other elected bodies that wield much more direct influence on our lives.

Whether you post constantly on social media or have not yet said a word, it is nearly impossible to ignore the current state of American politics. Worsening police brutality triggered an overdue conversation on systemic racism, Gov. Bill Lee downplayed the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Tennesseans, and the 84.8% male Tennessee legislature passed an anti-abortion law in the dead of night. If this makes you angry, it might be time to do something about it.

Yes, you

Make no mistake: There is a place for you to enact change. Some may protest, some may knock on doors, some may start a petition, some may contribute monetarily. No shoe fits all. Many under the voting age feel of little use in politics, writing off the problems that concern them to be solved by others. This inaction, while understandable, leaves people with a political system at a standstill.

Cynicism is a poor substitute for action. Scared about climate change? Text-bank for a candidate who supports a speedy transition to renewables. Think your area should be more active in combating housing discrimination? Make a statement at your next county commission meeting. Believe strongly in school choice? Email your legislators.

In their guide “Get Out the Vote: How to Increase Voter Turnout,” renowned political scientists Donald Green and Alan Gerber found that door-to-door canvassing can increase turnout by a huge seven percentage points. In close elections, this can be the difference between seeing the change you want and watching beloved policies be ripped away. Democracy is messy. Your side will lose sometimes, but that does not degrade the value of fighting for every last vote. Maybe that one conversation at a voter’s doorstep will be the reason you win next time.

Advocacy is not a partisan issue. While as a Democrat I tend to invoke liberal examples, the duty to get involved applies to every person no matter their political leanings. We all have our own definitions of what is worthwhile, and the fight itself is important above all else.

Local politics matter

Start looking at issues closer to home. One of the biggest problems today is the lack of focus on local politics. Despite the sensationalized attention grabs coming out of Washington, there are many other elected bodies that wield much more direct influence on our lives.

Admittedly, I attended my first meeting of the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen only in March. The board decided to establish a plan of services for building a road through Gentry Farm. The issue received exceptionally low coverage, especially compared to business on Capitol Hill. Ask yourself what is more important in your daily life: local construction or Congress’ infrastructure budget?

The turnout in the last aldermanic elections was 7.2%. That was embarrassingly higher than the two prior at-large elections. A mere thousand votes could have swung some of those races in a different direction, potentially changing the makeup of the board.

When consequential decisions like this are essentially decided by a handful of voters, it is clear that there is a divide between the will of the people and the decisions of our elected officials. We can fix this only by doing more not just as Americans, but as Tennesseans.

Daniel Matin is a high school student involved with several Democratic organizations in Tennessee.

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    Would you like to get more involved in Ireland’s parliamentary democracy? Find out some of the ways you can have input into the Houses of the Oireachtas.

    How to get involved in local politics

    Make a submission to an Oireachtas Committee

    Oireachtas Committees sometimes invite submissions on a particular issue. You can also make a written submission to a Committee at any time. Make sure you follow our guidelines and send your submission to the clerk of the relevant Committee.

    How to get involved in local politics

    Petition the Oireachtas

    You can petition the Houses of the Oireachtas on matters on which it has the power to act. A special Committee of TDs and Senators, the Committee on Public Petitions, will consider your petition. The Committee will publish your petition and may invite you to speak directly to them.

    • See petitions already submitted
    • Find out how to petition the Oireachtas

    If you are interested in responding to a call for submissions to a public consultation, it is important that you read the guidance note.

    How to get involved in local politics

    Collaborate with the Parliamentary Research Service

    If you are an academic researcher you might be interested in a collaboration with our Parliamentary Research Service. Previous research fellows have focused on diverse topics including legislation, nanotechnology, European affairs and drones.

    How to get involved in local politics

    Vote in the next election

    If you are an Irish or British citizen living in Ireland and aged at least 18 you are entitled to vote in elections to the Dáil, but you must be registered.

    If you are a graduate of an Irish university you may be eligible to vote in Seanad elections.

    Contact a TD

    As your local representative, a TD can ask questions in the Dáil or raise issues that are important to you or your local area.

    Join a political party

    It’s worth considering joining a political party if you want to get more involved in politics. There are more than 20 registered political parties in Ireland.

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    Whether you’re a member of Youth Parliament or not, you can get your voice heard and make a difference to our county and our world.

    Here are our top ten ways to get involved in politics and campaign for issues that matter to you.

    Attend and organise events

    You could attend debates at your school or college and talk about what your passionate about.

    Look out for events that local campaign groups are running and have an input – you could even ask to be a speaker.

    You could create your own event in your community or local school/ college. Invite different speakers along to talk about important political topics. If you want some top tips on setting up an event, email [email protected]

    Educate yourself

    Educating yourself about political issues is the first step to changing the world. It gives you a well-informed opinion on important topics.

    Make sure you fact check your information. For example, try to look at a variety of information sources and view points.

    Find who your local MP and councillors are

    Find out who your local MP and councillors are and how to contact them. If you are unhappy with something in your local community, get in touch with them.

    Volunteer your time

    Volunteer your time to organisations that support your values. You can volunteer your time to local or national organisations.

    Attend decision meetings

    Attend meetings where people are making decisions about your local community and services. For example, at school councils or Norfolk Youth Advisory Boards.

    Ask them questions.

    Find out what opportunities are available by speaking to:

    Join a campaign or pressure group

    Join a campaign or pressure group to support campaigns you are passionate about. Ask the group organisers how to get involved.

    Pressure groups campaign to try to make a difference to Government policy. They carry out planned campaign activities but are not part of the Government.

    Examples of pressure groups include:

    Set up your own campaign

    If you can’t find a campaign or group that is discussing the issues you care about, set up your own campaign.

    Tell people about it so they can support your cause. As a group you can campaign about your chosen topic.

    We can provide you with information and resources to help you achieve your campaign goal. Email us what you would like to achieve at [email protected]

    Register to vote

    When you can vote in elections, make sure you vote in local and national elections.

    Sign or create a petition

    If a petition gets at least 100,000 signatures, MPs will debate the issue in the House of Commons. MPs could decide to act on the issue.