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Representative democracy cannot work effectively without the participation of informed citizens, however. Engaged citizens familiarize themselves with the most important issues confronting the country and with the plans different candidates have for dealing with those issues. Then they vote for the candidates they believe will be best suited to the job, and they may join others to raise funds or campaign for those they support. They inform their representatives how they feel about important issues. Through these efforts and others, engaged citizens let their representatives know what they want and thus influence policy. Only then can government actions accurately reflect the interests and concerns of the majority. Even people who believe the elite rule government should recognize that it is easier for them to do so if ordinary people make no effort to participate in public life.

Pathways to engagement

People can become civically engaged in many ways, either as individuals or as members of groups. Some forms of individual engagement require very little effort. One of the simplest ways is to stay informed about debates and events in the community, in the state, and in the nation. Awareness is the first step toward engagement. News is available from a variety of reputable sources, such as newspapers like the New York Times ; national news shows, including those offered by the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio; and reputable internet sites.

Another form of individual engagement is to write or email political representatives. Filing a complaint with the city council is another avenue of engagement. City officials cannot fix problems if they do not know anything is wrong to begin with. Responding to public opinion polls, actively contributing to a political blog, or starting a new blog are all examples of different ways to be involved.

One of the most basic ways to engage with government as an individual is to vote ( [link] ). Individual votes do matter. City council members, mayors, state legislators, governors, and members of Congress are all chosen by popular vote. Although the president of the United States is not chosen directly by popular vote but by a group called the Electoral College, the votes of individuals in their home states determine how the Electoral College ultimately votes. Registering to vote beforehand is necessary in most states, but it is usually a simple process, and many states allow registration online. (We discuss voter registration and voter turnout in more depth in a later chapter.)

An image of a large group of people lined up along a sidewalk.
Voters line up to vote early outside an Ohio polling station in 2008. Many who had never voted before did so because of the presidential candidacy of then-senator Barack Obama. (credit: Dean Beeler)

Voting, however, is not the only form of political engagement in which people may participate. Individuals can engage by attending political rallies, donating money to campaigns, and signing petitions. Starting a petition of one’s own is relatively easy, and some websites that encourage people to become involved in political activism provide petitions that can be circulated through email. Taking part in a poll or survey is another simple way to make your voice heard.

Questions & Answers

discuss features of Igbo
Saad Reply
what is power
Moses Reply
what is sovereignty
Damian Reply
supreme power of attorney .
Amber
the political philosophy that ordinary people can govern themselves
Meia Reply
sovereign
Damian
explain 5 reasons for the adoption of unitary system of government in some countries
Joel Reply
explain 5 reasons for the adoption of unitary system of government in some government
Joel
is that not a contradiction of itself? Of course that is just my unitary thought and opinion.
Jesse
what is a goverment compose of
Claudia Reply
Judicial, Executive, Legislative branches
Chatbot
The Constitution: Name Specific Constitutional procedure for confirming presidential appointees?
Chatbot
Executive, Legislative and Judicial are the three arms of government
Rashid
an authoritative party given authority by a people in an area presumably controlled by the people, to foster law and elected administration for progressively conservative ideas that encompass social ethics, and inspire peaceful congregations.
Jesse
The US has a Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches of federal government. Also we adopt state, and local principalities that sometimes defer the federal, yet is usually respected in the locality.
Jesse
What is pressure group
Felcia Reply
what is election
Faith Reply
A election is a formal and organized choice by voters of a person or people for a political office or other position.
Tina
Ok. Thanks not sure why you sent that to me. But ok?
Chatbot
What if the people of country did not want
Sadam Reply
Can you explain the Stockdale Paradox
Patricia Reply
How the capital market can create a better future for all import and benefit
Egbo Reply
features of Igbo
Saad
in the dred scott case what did the supreme court decide the Congress had no power to do
Kazi Reply
who was james madison
Ceceilia Reply
Founding Father who fought to add the Bill of Rights to the Constitution he helped write (called the "Father of the Constitution"). He and Jefferson didn't want the federal govt to overpower the states (Democratic-Republican party). Cowrote The Federalist Papers. 4th President of the US (1809-1817).
Aaron
hi
Serah
how are you doing
Bubacarr
hi
Nicole
hello
faithsia
who has the power to declare war
Fernandy Reply
president who is commander in chief
Abu
Adam the president
Talima
Congress
Jesse
are spelled out in Constitution
leticia Reply
who was the first president of America
Famara
George Washington, who didn't like party politics.
Jesse

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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