Previous: Demystifying The Voting Process | MediaWise Voter Guide #8
Next: How To Vote In Every State 2020: COVID-19 Update



View count:3,026
Last sync:2024-05-19 09:15
As the 2020 election draws near and you research all the things you care about, you might be looking for other ways to make your voice heard. That's what we're here to help you with today.








This video is a sole production of Complexly and does not reflect the views of The MediaWise Voter Project or The Poynter Institute.


Follow us!
Hey y'all, Evelyn from the Internets here. Thanks so much for hanging out with us to learn more about how to vote, and how to make informed decisions in the voting booth.

Now, if you’ve, um, been on the internet lately. Or– or outside...or inside. Oh boy. You might be starting to think that voting once every two years isn’t going to be enough to make your world reflect your values. Trust me, I get that.

We still believe that voting is one of the most powerful ways to make your voice heard, but it’s only one of many tools in your toolbox. So we wanted to leave you with five things you can do that don't need to wait until November. Check out the playlist to learn more about each of them.

Also, we know that all of these ideas aren't possible to do during a pandemic. This is meant to be a guide for how you can stay civically engaged for years and decades to come. So please be safe and know that all these tactics will be there for you when we’re able to meet up IRL again.

First, learn your history. In the words of writer James Baldwin, “nothing can be changed until it’s faced.” And if voting alone can’t change the world, it’s important we know why.

Throughout US history, it hasn’t been easy for everyone to vote. White women didn’t get the right to vote until 1919, and Black Americans were regularly excluded from the voting process until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Still to this day, things like strict voter ID laws, lack of equal access to mail ballots, polling locations, and even working voting machines make it harder for some folks to vote than others.

So learn about how far we’ve come in extending voter access to everyone, and how far we have left to go.

Your next task? Get to know your legislators at every level.

We focus a lot on the office of the president, but a lot of the laws that affect our everyday lives are being made by local legislators. Do you care about voting laws? Your State Assembly and State Senate make those laws — they’re like Congress, except just for your state, and they actually get things done.

Care about police accountability? How expensive your rent is? Your local library or neighborhood park? That pothole at the end of your street? Your city council and mayor work together to make laws about all of that stuff.

And what about teachers? Or what resources your school has? Or making sure that the kids across town have the same resources as you? That’s up to your school board.

Get to know your elected officials, from the one who lives in the White House to the one who lives on your block. And then, get used to calling them, emailing them, writing letters, showing up to their offices or town halls and telling them what you think and how you feel about the issues that are important to you.

But you know what’s even more powerful than letting them hear from you? Making sure they hear from all your neighbors too.

The best way to make change is to choose a problem and ask the people you know to join you in solving it. This could be anything from volunteering with a local organization or campaign to phone bank or register voters, to getting your friends together and talking about a problem in your community you want to solve. That’s called community organizing, and we’ve got a few videos to help you learn more about it and to try it out for yourself.

Sometimes, when you’re contacting your lawmakers and organizing your community and taking all the “right” steps, you can still feel like you’re not being heard. Then it’s time to head to the streets, and protest.

You can search the word "protest" or "march" and the name of the issue you care about online to see if any groups are organizing protests in your area. Just do a little more research using the same tools you use to research a candidate to learn more about who they are, what they stand for, where they get their funding from, and whether or not you want to align yourself with them. Or, if nothing exists, grab some friends, make some signs and start your own. But make sure you know your local laws around permits, locations, distributing flyers, and know your demonstration rights, especially if you choose not to follow them.

One last idea: you could run for office. I mean, well, depending on how old you are, and what office you wanna run for.

But seriously, you could run. If you’ve been doing all the things we just talked about, and haven’t made much progress, or haven’t found responsive leadership, it might be time for you to step up and be a leader yourself. Start local — offices like city council and school board are often won by just a few dozen votes.

Organizations like Run For Something, which help people under 40 run for office, can even help you make a plan for how you're going to earn those votes — mostly by talking to your neighbors about the issues that matter to them. And once you’ve spoken to your legislators, your friends and community members, once you’ve marched with them, volunteered with them, and organized with them – you’ll be pretty good at that already.

For now, let’s keep learning together. I know it’s a lot so no need to watch it all in one sitting, but we’ve put together a playlist full of information to get you started. We also broke them out into separate sub-playlists, if that’s easier for you. Start with whatever kind of direct action feels right to you, and keep coming back when you’re ready for more.