Regardless of your political leanings, chances are good that you’d like to influence your elected officials in some way. Perhaps they are doing things you think need to happen faster, or not at all. Or perhaps they’re not doing things you wish they would.
There are many ways to effect political change, but the easiest and least time-consuming thing you can do is vote for people who will make a difference. And the first step toward ensuring that you do is to put Election Day on your calendar.
Electronic calendars are great for this. Our local elections are always held the same time every year, so I put a recurring event on my calendar that ensures I pay attention. US Federal elections are a bit trickier because they are the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November and Outlook can’t deal with that. Instead, I’ve added a recurring event for the first Monday of November, which reminds me to add the actual election day as the date approaches and start planning just when I’ll go to the polls.
If you’re in a state that has voting by mail, that can make things even easier. But make sure you’re signed up ahead of the deadline.
It’s very worthwhile to invest some time in learning where candidates stand on issues that you care about and the work they get done. When I first came to Maine, I steered away from our very strong Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, because the opposing Democrats were able to tick off more boxes that corresponded to my beliefs and concerns. But both women won me over by their thoughtful approach, resistance to the pack mentality, and willingness to reach out to senators with different beliefs and positions to make change happen. It doesn’t matter where a politician stands on the issues if they can’t get things done. Find candidates that make things happen.
And while our federally elected officials take up a lot of airspace, don’t neglect your local officials. They are the guard posts that enable or prevent change—installing rooftop solar for residential or commercial buildings, maintaining open spaces, even whether we’re allowed to hang our clothes out to dry. Support those that are supporting the community you want to live in. And remember that in local situations even a small number of active citizens can have big impact.
Voting is an easy way to change the world, and act on behalf of your neighbors as well as yourself. It takes a lot of us working together, but it’s really a piece of cake in comparison to the alternatives. (And you’ll often find an inviting bake sale table at the polling station, so you can have your cake and eat it, too.)