You told your friends to vote and get involved. Now I am telling you to put your money where your mouth is and stay involved.
Take a deep breath, because if you are reading this, then the election is over. A break from political ads, junk mailers, and digital bickering about candidates. A breather from begging friends to vote, name calling from opposing political parties, and yard signs littering the roads and neighborhoods. We collectively throw away our “I Voted” stickers (unless you are keeping some weird collection) and prepare for a new chapter ahead. Don’t hold that breath too long though — because the work has only begun.
Let’s face it, you could just go back to everyday life now that this election is over — but you shouldn’t. That would make you a keyboard warrior, and nobody likes a keyboard warrior. You begged your friends to get involved and vote which was great, but we’ve got a lot more work to do. Put your money where your mouth is and stay involved because politics does not end on election day!
Here are ten ways to stay involved in your community now that the election is over:
1. Engage with your elected officials online and offline
Whether your candidate won or lost the election, the results are final. Now it’s time to hold these folks accountable! Make a list of your representatives — from congress and state representatives to city council and county commission. Learn what their job actually entails and what they are responsible for. Look online to find their websites and social media platforms. Sign up for any available newsletter updates, follow their social media pages, and add them to a Twitter List.
From there, it should be easier to keep up with them offline. Make an effort to attend town halls or public meetings when they are held, and other community events that your representative will be at. Make an effort to respectfully introduce yourself each time and develop a relationship, no matter the party. If you cannot find a date that accommodates your schedule, reach out to their local office. Also, always respect the legislative staff, as they are just as important and can be as helpful.
2. Stay in the loop on city and county council meetings
Research when your city council or county commission has their meetings. Try to attend and consider making a public comment on an issue when you feel inclined. If you can’t attend, make an effort to read through the meeting minutes posted on your municipality website. It makes for fantastic bathroom reading! Another great option is to subscribe to publications that cover your local government — see how it is being reported on and navigate the different angles to issues effecting your community. If there is no publication covering your local government, then check out #8 below.
3. Prepare to get involved in the upcoming state session
For starters, you can click here to find out when your state legislative session begins and ends. Begin by researching how your state government operates and passes bills and appropriations. Look at who the other representatives are in the state as well, because it takes a group effort to get anything done.Since you already know who your representatives are, reach out to them and their staff regarding any initiatives you find important or questions that you may have. Plan a trip to the capitol and schedule meetings with them to lobby for any priorities you may have for this session.
4. Volunteer for an organization or cause
Is there an issue that was a top priority for you this past election? Volunteer your time and experience helping an organization that is accomplishing a mission aligned with your values. You can volunteer for events, help fundraise, advocate online and offline, or join a board of directors. As written in #3, you can take your trip to the capitol with your organization to lobby — there is power in numbers. Not only will your time be used to make a difference, but you will also develop invaluable experiences.
5. Apply for a city, county, or state advisory board
Put your valuable experiences and perspectives to use! Find a municipal or state advisory board that fits your background and interests. There are advisory boards addressing a wide array of issues — from noise ordinances and animal control to affordable housing and public transportation. There are even “at-large” positions designated for prospective board members that may be missing an occupational requirement, so look to see what vacancies you can fill. Most municipalities have a committee dedicated to filling these advisory boards, and they can help identify the best place for you to contribute.
6. Get involved in your local party or a civic engagement group
If you’re a registered voter with a party affiliation, don’t just join your party, but engage your party. Join a committee within your local party, or at least support those that do. Run for a board position or research those that are and hold them accountable. Sign up as a precinct captain and get to know your like-minded neighbors and keep them engaged. If you aren’t happy with all of your party’s platforms, then advocate from within. Not registered to a political party? Join a civic group that advocates for similar issues as you or one that educates the community.
7. Research upcoming leadership and campaign training programs
There is a need for new blood in the political world — not just candidates, but also those working behind the scenes. There are organizations of every background and affiliation providing these trainings, but you need to find the ones most able to bring out your potential. If you are more left leaning, there are organizations such as New Leaders Council and EMILY’s List. If you are more right leaning, there are organizations such as GOPAC or Turning Point USA. Continue building your network and experience to take your political game to the next level.
8. Put your opinion out there
There is no end to the amount of platforms being used to reach people now (you are reading this on Medium and probably clicked here from Facebook). There are podcasts, blogs, and videos being recorded and posted every day. Look into some of the publications and media already out there to see what tickles your fancy. If you find a lack of coverage on an issue like referred to in #2, then start your own! Make sure you know your facts because in todays influencer market, more and more people are getting their information from people that they follow.
9. Help register voters and vote-by-mail sign ups
Just because the election is over does not mean that voter registration is over. In fact, you should take advantage of the newly-felt FOMO (fear of missing out) that I’m sure non voters are experiencing. Educate neighbors on how they can register to vote and especially how to vote-by-mail. Canvass with educational material from the Supervisor of Elections, volunteer at voter drives and events, or share information online. If you’ve gotten this far down this list, you should already be getting involved with a civic organization or political party so this part is even easier.
10. Prepare for 2019 and 2020 elections!
Whether you have municipal elections in 2019 or the next big round in 2020, apply all of the above to get ready for the next election. Research who the candidates are as they enter the race, and keep updated with any upcoming ballot initiatives. Reach out early to ask questions about their responses to the issues important to you, and hold them accountable to so. If nothing else, maybe it’s your time to run!