And Shape the Issues that Matter to You
Despite the shifting political climate, Ventures will continue to serve entrepreneurs with limited resources and unlimited potential including women, immigrants, people of color, refugees, and other underserved populations. Your involvement and support can and does make a difference, and for that we thank you.
After the results of November’s election, many of us are asking how we can make our voices heard on immigration, healthcare, women’s rights, and the environment. The political process can seem so overwhelming that it often feels pointless. However, there are concrete actions we individuals can take that will make a real difference on the issues we care about. Here are ten actions that you can take to get involved in politics and shape the issues that matter to you most.
First things first. Make sure you have a ticket to the party. In other words, register to vote. In Washington, the process is simple and can be done online. As a registered voter, you will be sent a voter information packet and your official ballot by mail. You will also receive information from campaigns, candidates, and parties about upcoming elections.
In Washington, we vote by mail, so watch for your ballot in the mailbox roughly three weeks before election day. Simply fill out your ballot, sign the envelope and either mail it back (don’t forget the stamp!) or drop it off at one of the dozens of ballot drop boxes.
3. Get Involved with a Political Party
Political parties, such as the Democrats and the Republicans, along with smaller parties like the Socialists and the Libertarians, are the key organizing groups in American politics. Whatever your political stripe, you’ll need to organize with the party that best represents your values in order to have a seat at the table. Getting involved with your local political party can be a powerful way to ensure that your issues matter. By attending meetings and raising your voice, you can shape the party platform–the set of issues that your party is committed to working for. You can find out more information on all of the political parties in Washington State on the VoteSmart website.
4. If You Live in Seattle, Use Your Democracy Vouchers
Seattle voters have a unique way of getting involved in politics. Beginning this year, all registered Seattle voters will receive $100 in Democracy Vouchers. As a registered voter, you select which campaign you want to support with your vouchers, and the city will provide that campaign with the funds. There is no cost to you as a voter. Rather, you are simply directing the funds from the city to the candidate of your choice. Check out the City’s Democracy Voucher page to learn more and find candidates.
5. Call Your Elected Officials
This one seems almost too easy. Just pick up the phone and call your representative to let them know how you would like them to vote on the issues that matter to you. The hard part is figuring out who they are, right? Well, Common Cause makes that easy too. Just plug your location into their form, and you will get a complete list of local, state and federal elected officials.
6. Sign-up for Action Alerts
Most organizations that work on political causes will provide their members with regular calls to action, which are concrete steps citizens can take to support the cause. Pick a few of the organizations that are working for the causes that you care about and visit their websites to sign up for their Action Alerts.
7. Respond to Pollsters
A really easy way to make a difference is to respond to pollsters when they call you. Since politicians are always paying attention to the polls, make sure that your opinion is included. So, the next time someone calls you during dinner to take a survey, don’t hang up. Take the ten minutes to give your feedback. Your opinion could be one of a small number of people representing thousands, or even millions of your fellow citizens.
8. Speak Up at Public Forums with Elected Officials
One of the most powerful ways to influence your elected officials is to show up and speak up at public forums. Find out where your Representatives, Senators and other elected officials will be by checking their websites for upcoming events and subscribing to action alerts (see above).
9. Meet with Your Elected Official
While politicians are notoriously difficult to get a meeting with, it doesn’t hurt to try. They work for you after all. One of the most effective ways to get a meeting is to gather a group of people committed to addressing one issue. For example, if you are a parent with a child in public school, organize a dozen other parents to request a group meeting to discuss school funding. As Margaret Mead famously stated, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Finally, and most important, consider running for office yourself. Democracy only functions if citizens respond to the highest civic calling of standing up to represent their peers. We desperately need more women and people of color to run for office so that our legislatures and councils reflect the diversity of American society. Run for your local school board, for a seat on a planning commission, or even in your neighborhood association. There are ample resources online for people interested in running for office, but a good starting point for women is the She Should Run campaign.