You Don't Have To Do It All
We've heard from a lot of people who feel like the task of civic engagement is monumental. How can any individual compete with huge sums of money going to candidates from corporations? How can one speak rationally with an ideologue? How can we find common ground when politics are more partisan than ever?
These are all pertinent questions, but possibly not the most productive ones. We at Civic Syrup have only one question: Are you willing to take your own civic engagement just one step further than you have in the past, and are you willing to help someone else do the same? If your answer is yes, then we can meet the monumental task before us.
Colorado had higher voter turnout (about 70%) than the national average (about 58%) in the 2016 election. So, if even one out of four Colorado voters got another Coloradan to vote, and the other three voters committed to voting in mid-term elections, odd-year elections, and all the way down the ballot, we'd be looking at a paradigm shift of civic engagement.
But that's just the start. Let's play a little game: You will need 16 of something you like - jelly beans, nickels, music tracks, stickers (we like the "I Voted" ones) or even just points marked on a sheet of paper. After each bullet point, move one of your reward items to a separate pile (or playlist or paper) if you have already completed the task; move two if you have also engaged someone else.
If you have not registered to vote, register. Then help someone else do the same. Youth as young at 16 can pre-register to vote!
If you have never voted, make a plan to vote on or before November 7 of this year. Then, offer to help someone you know vote in this year's election as well.
If you have voted in presidential elections only, make a commitment to participate in mid-term (2018, 2022, 2026, etc.) elections and odd-year elections. Offer to help someone else get their ballot in for those elections, too.
If you typically vote on high-visibility candidates only, commit to voting down the ballot after researching local candidates and issues. You can frequently do this with the blue book that is sent out in advance of an election (and is available online). Then give your book to someone else and offer to answer questions. You could seek out someone under 18 and ask them how they'd vote if they could and why; it is a great way to engage a young person while also reminding yourself that your vote affects people who can't vote.
You vote the whole ballot every time, but you've never contacted a representative. Check out our list of Ten Civic Engagement Actions (don't worry, you've already done some of them) and make contact: in person, by phone, via fax or email. Even one call is better than none. Then add the contact information to your phone and share the contact file with a neighbor so it is even easier to call, fax, or visit an office.
Okay, so you're someone who votes the whole ballot every single year and contacts your representatives? Super! Get involved in an organization that advocates for an issue you care about. Be open about your involvement in that organization - talk to your family about it, include it on your resume (if appropriate), or invite a friend to join you for an event or meeting.
You vote. You're informed. You're involved... Time to give money. No amount is too small. See if your employer offers matching funds, or sell lemonade or host a small fundraiser to raise awareness about an issue and raise more money.
You vote, you're informed, you're involved, you give money, and you're fundraising. You're passionate. Are there ways that you could be more efficient or more effective with your passion? Check out the concept of effective altruism or consider employment that aligns with your passion. That might mean running for office, or investing significant time and/or treasure to a candidate or cause you support.
What do your piles look like? Did you find a way to engage that you hadn't thought of before?
What did we miss? What are ways you can take your engagement to the next level and inspire someone else to do the same? Let us know by contacting us.