Some people would like to become more politically involved in their government, but don’t know where to start. There are many opportunities for political participation, and these represent a full range from either minimal to maximum involvement in your government. The first, and most minimal suggestion, but probably also the most important, is that you be registered to vote. Especially in countries where voting elects its leaders, helps to determine laws, and elects representatives, your involvement in this process through being a registered voter and showing up at the polls, allows you a say in how your government works and who represents your voice in the political spectrum.
While voting may be the single best way to become more politically involved, not all people can vote, such as people under 18. Depending upon the time and energy you have to commit to participating in the political process, you have a range of options for making your voice heard. If you only have time to vote, the very least you can do is to become an educated voter. You may need to “school” yourself on the electoral process, and on how to understand the way in which issues you might vote on affect you.
You can get more informed by reading. You might start with a good book on your government’s history and particularly on your government’s constitution and your rights. You can also follow the beat of politics through a number of online sources that will help you make choices with intelligence and conviction. If you’re not yet able to vote, these are still excellent places to start, and many students learn the basics of history and government in school. While these things may seem “boring,” they do help you become more politically involved because you will make better choices when you vote based on understanding of how the political system works.
Being an informed voter is just the first step in political involvement. Through continued reading and understanding of candidates or issues, another way to become more politically involved is to write or call your representatives and express how you feel about certain issues. Since much of the US political system is based on the way our representatives act and create law, it’s important to let representatives know your stance on issues, so they can determine if they adequately represent their constituents.
Another way to become more politically involved is to join a campaign, even at a low level. If you feel a particular candidate represents your point of view well, you can work toward helping that candidate get or stay elected through volunteering. Volunteering can take many forms, from helping send out mailers, staffing a campaign office, calling registered voters to ask them for their support, or canvassing your neighborhood to distribute campaign materials. You can decide the degree to which you have time for this involvement, and if you can’t or don’t want to work in an office, many candidates now have active online organizations that allow you to help a campaign from home. Even contacting your own friends and family to discuss a political issue helps you make more of an impact.
Other methods of political involvement include signing petitions to help create bills, writing to news organizations to comment on particular laws or candidates, helping out any political party by working on voter registration drives, and donating to political organizations or campaigns. Attending local and/or regional meetings like City Council meetings where you can present issues you care about, or participating in PTA or meetings of a school board allows you to become more politically involved, without much time or effort expended.
In the US, and numerous other countries, there is a certain amount of apathy or resistance toward political involvement. People who become more politically involved are viewed as hotheads, and some families or friends may never want to talk about politics. Don’t let this deter you from political involvement, though you should determine the degree to which you want to press friends or family on political issues. Being involved politically, though, is a means by which you are active in the process of your government, and if politics are truly determined by “the people who show up,” your voice, time, and concern may help shape your own government, even if your involvement in the process is minor.