Civics 101: Your participation in your government

J. H. Osborne • Sep 24, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Many citizens do not vote or participate in our government in other ways. Other people believe that citizens have a responsibility to participate.

Deciding whether to participate and how much time to spend participating can include giving thought to several things, including:

• The purpose of our government

• How important your rights are to you

• How satisfied you are with the way the government is working

We should be sure the people we “hire” (elect) can do the job we are hiring them for. Once they get the job, we should keep an eye on them to make sure they are doing that job. If they do a good job, we may not watch them as closely. If they do a bad job, we may watch them very closely and may even decide to replace them.

Participation in government is in our own self-interest. The amount of time we spend participating will probably depend on how well we think our elected officials are doing. If everything is going well, we will spend less time than if we are concerned that someone is violating our rights. If we are pleased with the government, we may vote and do little else. If we are dissatisfied, however, we will probably take other types of action.

Some ways citizens can participate:

• Voting in local, state and national elections

• Participating in a political discussion

• Signing a petition

• Wearing a button or putting a sticker on the car

• Writing letters to elected representatives

• Contributing money to a party or candidate

• Attending meetings to gain information, discuss issues or lend support

• Campaigning for a candidate

• Lobbying for laws that are of special interest

• Demonstrating through marches, boycotts, sit-ins or other forms of protest

• Serving as a juror

• Running for or holding public office

Source: “We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution,” second edition (1998), via Center for Civic Education at www.civiced.org.

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