11 steps to Engaged Citizenship

 How to make sure you’re ready to vote on November 8


 We’re about eleven weeks out from the Presidential elections. Are you on top of the issues and concerns you’ll address with the pull of a lever or the punch of a stylus on November 8?

If not, here are eleven ways to prepare for your civic duty in national, state, and local elections. Tackle one step a week. By election day you’ll be ready to cast your ballot.

  1. Add your elected officials to your email contacts. Legislators care what you think. Let them know. It’s much easier to stay in touch if you have their contact information in your phone or email address book. If you don’t know who they are here is a simple way to find them. Thank you League of Women Voters!
  2. Create a list of issues that matter to you. You can’t pay attention to everything, so choose a few issues that are important to you and the common good. For starters, choose one issue facing the planet, the nation, and your state, county, and municipal governments. Write them down then listen up when the issues are raised in the media or at your dinner table.
  3. Sign on to the mailing lists of organizations that address issues you care about. This is a simple, effective way to increase your understanding about what’s important to you. If you prefer a clutter-free inbox, follow the organizations on your social media accounts instead. Here are a few we like: Justice for Immigrants, Network Lobby, Catholic Climate Covenant.
  4. Serve. Let your heart be broken open by the suffering of the people in your community, across the state, and around the globe. Direct contact with people whose lives are affected by policy can change your life. If you don’t know where to start, start here.
  5. Read the constitution. It never hurts to remind yourself what it really says.
  6. Read your local newspaper. If your only news source is your social media feed or television, you are missing out. Splurge on a print or online subscription to your local papers or read them at the library. Keep a finger on your community’s pulse by reading the opinion pages or the letters to the editor.
  7. Know the candidates. Now that you’ve improved your understanding of issues that matter to you, get to know the people you are about to hire to make the big decisions. It’s election season, so watch the candidates websites for schedules of local appearances or debates; find a source for non-partisan reviews of their voting records or speeches; if possible, make an appointment to visit in person. Be ready with a topic or issue you’d like to discuss and keep it brief. Optionally, communicate via their website and make a point to visit after the election.
  8. Join forces. Faith-based community organizing is a wonderful way to put your power to work for the common good. Use a search engine to find a group near you. We are part of the Faith Coalition for the Common Good in Springfield, and they are a Gamaliel affiliate. Here’s a link to a list of Gamaliel organizations around the country.
  9. Bookmark these four great resources.
    www.congress.gov follow legislation, get updates in your email inbox.
    Crash Course in Government and Democracy a zany way to re-learn what democracy is all about.
    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops legislative concerns and issue updates
    for Catholic Social Justice Issues
    Southern Poverty Law Center briefs on issues of national importance
  10. Pray. You may hear it said that we need more than prayer to assure a working democracy. That’s true, otherwise we could have skipped steps 1-9. We also need prayer to quiet and center our hearts and aid in our ability to discern the good. Here are two resources to support your prayerful discernment for the upcoming national election: Take it to Prayer: A Spiritual Reflection for Voters is a brief guide we developed to help you discern your vote. The U.S. bishops’ document Faithful Citizenship is a more comprehensive guide to your faith-filled approach to the democratic process.
  11. Vote. Your county clerk’s office is responsible for your local elections. Contact that office for the details. You may also find helpful information here.


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