The general election is nine months away, and the news this past week included the carnage at the Iowa Caucus and the State of the Union address. Tensions are high. State and federal lawmakers, as …
The general election is nine months away, and the news this past week included the carnage at the Iowa Caucus and the State of the Union address. Tensions are high. State and federal lawmakers, as well as the president, will be on the ballot this year. But the good news is, you don’t have to wait until the election to have a voice.
It’s great to live in a democracy where you can help decide who our leaders are, and a lot of people consider it a key civic duty to get out to the ballot box and cast their vote for their favorite candidate.
As state lawmakers go into the legislative session next week, it’s a good time to remind everyone that positive civic engagement goes beyond casting a vote in elections.
The push to “get out and vote” drives the message that if more people cast their vote, we’d improve this country through increased levels of civic engagement from the populace.
While voting is important, it’s not certain that increasing voter turnouts improves election outcomes. The U.S. Congress consistently receives approval ratings of around 10% to 20%. Despite this strong consensus that Congress isn’t doing a very good job, over 90% of incumbents get re-elected, and exit polls don’t show only people satisfied with Congress vote.
If you really want to have an impact on the decisions that affect your life, there are actions everyone can take that would likely get more of a response than voting.
At a recent town hall meeting on the Northwest College campus, Rep. David Northrup, Rep. Dan Laursen, and Sen. R.J. Kost discussed with a room full of voters legislation they’re pursuing in the coming session and issues their constituents feel are important.
In the course of the discussion, one of the points the legislators made is how much they like hearing from voters. They said communications they receive from constituents do influence the decisions they make in Cheyenne.
Email is the best way to reach them, they said, and the lawmakers asked their constituents to be sure and put their home address in the email.
The reason is that they get spammed from various advocacy groups across the country, and there’s no sense spending a lot of time reading an email from an organization in California trying to save the whales. The lawmakers stated frankly that they check for an address before they read the rest of the email.
Some constituents forward form emails from groups they support, and the lawmakers said these letters don’t mean as much as a personal note.
“Talk to us from your heart. It doesn’t have to be long,” Kost told the audience.
Voting is a lot like donating to food drives during the holidays. It’s a good thing to do, but if you really want to have an impact, you shouldn’t limit yourself to the act once per year.