6 Ways to Get Involved in Local Politics

By Jessie Molloy

In the aftermath of the 2016 election political interest spiked in the United States. Democrats, and many people who had previously been unaffiliated politically began seeking ways to undo the damage they saw being done, while supporters of President Trump began vehemently defending him at every turn. For some people it was the Travel Ban, for others it was Parkland, for me it was the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court Hearings. Whatever inspired you, if you want to get more involved politically, you absolutely should! It seems everywhere you look these days, things have gotten political, yet lots of people still don't know how to get involved themselves. Here are six easy ways you can take a more active role in our democracy. 

1. Learn Who Your Local Elected Officials Are

While it's always easy to focus on how much you may or may not like our president, we sometimes overlook how much good (or bad) politicians can do at the state and local levels. If you're looking to get more politically involved but are unsure where to start, the best place to look first is your own backyard. A simple search can tell you not just who your congressperson and senators are, but also your governor, state representatives, mayor, and even county and municipal elected officials. Once you get a better idea of who is representing you, you can find out what they stand for, if you agree or disagree with them, and if they have anyone running against them in an upcoming election.

2. Research Your Ballot

Once you find out who your representatives are and determine if they ACTUALLY represent your views, take a look to find out who may be running against them in the primary or general election. Now, more than ever, incumbent candidates are facing challengers from within their own party. The 2018 Blue Wave in Congress wasn't just about Democrats taking seats from Republicans, it was largely characterized by progressive challengers, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez taking on establishment candidates within their own parties. Going into the 2020 election, a number of Democratic representatives are being challenged from the left by more progressive, young candidates like Robert Emmons in Chicago.  

3. Make Your Voice Heard

Are there issues you are particularly passionate about? Did your research into local representation unearth any pending legislation you strongly oppose? Whether it's a local infrastructure project or a major upcoming vote in the U.S. Senate, you should always feel empowered to make your voice heard. You can do this by attending a town hall meeting or contacting your representative with a phone call or letter (both of which are more likely to be seen or acknowledged than emails), it never hurts to let politicians know what issues are important to you.

4. Attend a Demonstration or Peaceful Protest

Sometimes getting your voice heard is easier if you do it in numbers. Some issues, like gun violence or climate change, never seem to get the attention they deserve. Luckily, with the public's newfound political vigor, it's getting easier and easier to find groups who are more than willing to take to the streets to have their opinions heard, and most of them mobilize very publicly on Facebook and Twitter. Whether it's a local environmental issue or a nationwide protest like March for Our Lives or the Women's March, it isn't hard to find other people like you who want to vocalize their concerns.

5. Volunteer

Find an organization or a candidate you really like? Then now is the perfect time to get involved! Financial donations are always appreciated, but campaigns can't run on just money, they need a real workforce! They need people to donate their time to canvass, collect signatures, phone bank, host meet and greets, and even write social media content and blogs. Even if you don't have a lot of time to commit as a volunteer, candidates and non-profits can always use a boost getting their message out, so even liking social media pages and sharing content can make a big difference.

6. Go Vote!

This one may seem obvious, but it is literally the most basic thing you can do to get involved in the democratic process, and one that we often forget. If you don't like the status quo, the most effective way to change it is to change the people who make the rules. Your voice and your vote matter. Check your registration, find your polling place, and confirm your state's election dates and times at vote.org and get started making a difference today. 

Robert Emmons