In the last six months, we demonstrated that Badgers vote. Badgers turned out for a historic presidential election, a state primary race, and a statewide general election. 2020 shined a spotlight on the power of the youth vote and the movement for young people to actively participate in civic engagement.
With the elections behind Wisconsin for the remainder of 2021, it is important to remember that voting is just one step in being a civically engaged citizen. There are several ways to make your voice heard. Now is the time to take action, hold elected officials accountable, and get involved to ensure progress is made. BadgersVote and the Morgridge Center is here to help you figure out what’s next.
Make Your Voice Heard
One of the easiest ways to take the next step in civic engagement is contacting your elected officials. Get started by identifying issues that are important to you. There is no limit but here are some topics to get you started: Voting rights (For the People Act), gun control, police reform, climate change, taxes, health care, or education. You can find legislation proposed to Congress via the Thomas, The Library of Congress Web site.
You can make your voice heard by making a call, writing a letter, or reaching out via their social media and/or websites. To find the contact information of your elected officials you can often go directly to their websites. Visit the websites for the Senate and House of Representatives to look up your members of Congress. The top-right corners of the respective sites allow you to search by state or zip code. CSPAN also maintains a list of members of Congress.
Things to remember when reaching out:
- Introduce yourself so that you may receive a response and can confirm you are their constituent
- Indicate your position and any legislation tied to your issue
- Include information that supports your position and how the proposed legislation or issue affects you personally. Anecdotal evidence is the most effective and persuasive lobbying tool
- Always ask the senator or representative for something. This can be the support of a certain bill, co-sponsorship of a bill, or you may want the legislator to introduce legislation
- You can thank them for their time, effort, and/or support of legislation
Engage Your Peers
We know the most powerful tool for organizing we have is our connection with our peers. A great way to do this is to host events around a specific issue or topic to make your voices heard. A letter-writing campaign is an easy, effective advocacy tool to do just that. The letters may be directed toward the president, a member of Congress, or a particular government agency. Knowing that reelection depends on the votes of their constituents, Senators and Representatives pay close attention to the mail they receive. When planning an event think about a speaker to discuss the issues you are advocating to kick off your letter-writing campaign.
You came to a university to learn! Why not consider taking a course that helps you become an informed citizen? It is a great opportunity to engage in thoughtful discussions with your peers. In a polarized political environment, now more than ever we need to hold space for deliberative dialogue.
Student activism has a long and rich history at UW-Madison. Students continue to have an important role in shaping policy and access to campus resources. If you see something that you want to change or improve at UW-Madison, there are lots of ways for you to make your voice heard. The student governing body, Associated Students of Madison offers a variety of leadership positions. You can also get connected to one of their open committees, which organize around topics such as Equity and Inclusion, Sustainability, and Legislative Affairs. These committees work on grassroots campaigns that benefit students and any UW-Madison student can join.
You can make your voice heard through your student organization or the community organizing work similar to the BIPOC Student Coalition.
Join the Conversation
We have several great student leaders on this campus taking the lead on holding space for difficult conversations. You can join them! Check out our podcast sponsored by BadgersVote and the Andrew Goodman Foundation “Podcast Your Vote.” Look out for the opportunity in the Fall to engage with the BadgersVote Student Coalition.
With major elections just around the corner, campaigns will be gearing up. Campaigns rely heavily on grassroots organizing to connect to their voters. Reach out to campaigns for opportunities to volunteer or even join their team.
We have witnessed the power of protesting over the last year. The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government including our campus.
While the semester may be coming to a close your opportunities for civic engagement are endless. Remember it was only 50 years ago that the 26th amendment was created to change the voting age to 18. Stay connected by visiting UW–Madison my.VoteEverywhere portal, your one-stop-shop to being civically engaged and vote.wisc.edu for specific campus updates. There is no time to waste because democracy never sleeps.