Civic engagement: Getting re-connected with state and local politics

Civic engagement: getting re-connected with  state and local politics | San Antonio Mom BlogsThere’s an election going on now in San Antonio. Yes, really! Early voting happened last week, and election day is tomorrow, January 6, 2015. Voter turnout is likely to be in the single digits. Sigh.

Elections matter. What will it take to get voters re-connected with state and local politics?

The January 6 election will choose a new state senator in District 26 and a new state representative in District 123. In November, voters elected Leticia Van de Putte and Mike Villarreal, respectively, to fill those seats; then, both resigned to run for mayor of San Antonio.

Why hold an election during the holidays? It’s the only way to fill those seats before the legislative session begins on January 13, 2015. (Here’s a list of important dates for the 2015 session.)

Besides the time of year, there are other reasons for the low voter turnout. Recently, at a girls’ night out, some of my friends said that they feel disengaged from elections. They feel like character is more important than political party affiliation, but it’s hard to get reliable information. They don’t want to get brainwashed by the one-sided presentations on 24-hour news channels.

What are some ways to get re-engaged with politics?

First, if you haven’t already, register to vote. Ask your friends to register, too.

Keep it local. District 8 city council member Ron Nirenberg teaches kids about civics by asking them to think of a real-life problem, such as potholes on their street, and then figure out who they could ask to fix the problem; read more in this earlier post. In local elections, sometimes the outcome depends on a few hundred votes. If you can round up a few neighbors, and they can get their friends fired up, then you just might be able to change the outcome.

Show up. Go to a neighborhood association meeting. Visit a school board meeting. Go to an open house for an elected official. For example, Mayor Ivy Taylor is visiting branch libraries for Meet The Mayor events: February 12 at Forest Hills, February 25 at Landa, February 26 at Bazan, and more—visit the calendar and search for “Taylor.”

Speak up. Look up online to find out who represents you. Sign up for alerts from the Texas Charter Schools Association so you know when the legislature is considering school choice issues. Call or write to your representatives: I’ve been asking parents to write letters in support of bringing a BASIS Primary school to San Antonio in 2015. Every senator and representative has a district office and an office at the capitol in Austin: for example, my state senator, Dr. Donna Campbell, is at 3E.8; my state representative, Speaker Joe Straus, is at 2W.13. I am planning to take my kids to Austin soon so they can watch the legislature at work.

Keep reading and learning. Follow your elected officials on social media, and sign up for their email newsletters. Talk to your friends, but—most importantly—listen. If enough of us do that, then there is hope for us all.

If you want to do more research about tomorrow’s election, here are some news sources:

Here are the District 26 candidates:

And the District 123 candidates:

Finally, read more about SA2020’s efforts to boost civic engagement.

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