Whether you want to get involved in Maine or in your home state, there are many opportunities to be politically active and make change. Below are some ideas for how to get involved.
Volunteer With Bowdoin Votes
We’re seeking volunteer Student Voting Captains both remotely and on campus, to support their own networks of friends and contacts in the process (see job description). We’ll train you up and help you make sure all your buddies/teammates/classmates follow through from registration all the way to submitting their completed ballots. Email us to get started.
Help Democracy Work This Fall
Many more poll workers are needed across the country to ensure the November vote is free, fair and safe. Workers get training, PPE and often payment – get started at PowerThePolls. Non-partisan voter advocacy organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, are also seeking help to research and write voter education guides (start here), conduct voter outreach (sign up for training), and serve as Election Protection workers on Election Day (start here).
A significant amount of advocacy for various social and political causes is being done by students. Here is a list of some national, student-led organizations devoted to raising awareness of certain issues. Are you still in touch with people at your high school? Inspire U.S. is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with high school students to encourage them to vote and take political action. If you are passionate about encouraging youth civic engagement, you could work with Inspire U.S. to start a program in your old high school.
How to Advocate Effectively
Regardless of whether you’re interested in joining an organization or movement, there are many ways to advocate for a cause you believe in. Educating yourself, joining an organization that is working on a cause you care about, and informing those around you of the issue are all important steps in raising awareness.
Writing a letter to the editor is a way to present your thoughts to a large audience and possibly attract attention from your representatives.
Another option is to write to your Representatives directly. This list of tips on how to write your letter will help make sure it is as effective as possible in informing your Representative of your stance on an issue. You can also submit your opinions about specific bills your representatives electronically through IssueVoter.
Get Involved in the Political Process
Apart from contacting your representatives there are several ways of getting involved with the political process. One is to volunteer with a political campaign for a candidate running in Maine or your home state. On our Who Are My Reps? page is contact info for your Maine representatives, and links to look up others. Many office are up for election every two years, so contact your one of your reps (or their opponent) and see how you can be useful.
Another option is to submit testimony for bills you care about. By submitting oral or written testimony, you are giving legislators and committee members more personal and effective evidence of the impact of their proposed legislation. To submit testimony, first identify bills you care about. Go to legiscan.com, select your state, and hit search to find a list of bills from this legislative season. You can also search for a specific bill or keyword.
Once you have found a bill that you are passionate about, you need to know the protocols for submitting testimony in your state. You can find your state legislature website and search for how to testify, but some of these websites can be tricky to navigate. Another method is to simply search “submit testimony [your state] legislature” in your preferred search engine. Most states should offer the opportunity to comment in person at a public hearing or to submit written testimony.
Once you know what you want to say and how to communicate that to your state legislature, read these guidelines for preparing, writing, and giving testimony and go for it!
If you would like to really be part of the decision-making process for policy, you can apply to sit on a board or committee. There are currently several vacancies on Town Volunteer Boards and Committees in Brunswick. Being on a legislative committee is a great opportunity to participate in making policy decisions for your town. This is not an opportunity exclusive to your time at Bowdoin. At any point, you can contact your town hall or search your town’s website to see if there are any vacancies on committees or boards you are interested in.
One antidote to societal discord is the slow work of building understanding across difference, and identifying shared truths and values. You can bring people together with guidance and training from organizations like the Civil Conversations project, or join a hard conversation hosted by a dialogue organization like Make Shift Coffee House.