How to Be an Active Citizen—And Inspire Other Voters—in 2018

January 19, 2018

It's time to get pumped up about politics. It helps that the midterm elections coming up in November are poised to be, well, a pretty big deal. But beyond just rocking the vote, there’s more you can do to get involved. From driving your neighbors to the polls to volunteering for local campaigns to making longer-term investments in your community, here’s how to be an active citizen in the coming year.

1. VOTE!: Voting is a cornerstone of being an active citizen. And lest you assume that midterms aren't as important as a presidential election, think again: This year, "the whole House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, and most governorships will be at stake, along with hundreds of state legislative seats," as Vox points out. That's major. Start prepping now by putting the date in your calendar (it's Tuesday, November 6th, FYI), looking up your state's voter registration rules, and, if relevant, applying for an absentee ballot well in advance. Rock the Vote indeed.

2. HELP OTHERS VOTE: Think of registering to vote like putting on those oxygen masks on airplanes: Once you've got yourself prepped, be sure to help out other people around you. Organize a voter registration drive, take part in efforts to register community members at shopping centers, movie theaters, and other busy public places, and—even help ferry— your neighbors to the polls come November.

3. SUPPORT LOCAL CAMPAIGNS: All politics is local...which is why it's important to get involved with even small-scale political campaigns. Want to give your local candidate of choice a boost? Take part in phone banking efforts, embark on door-to-door canvassing outings, attend campaign events, and otherwise make sure you're up-to-date on your community's goings-on.

4. DON'T WAIT TO GET INVOLVED: Being an active citizen in 2018 isn't just about gearing up for November, however. It also means focusing on the here and now. Want to make sure your voice is heard, or unhappy about a particular policy? Brush up on scripts for calling your congresspeople, sign online petitions, attend a peaceful protest—even pick up a pocket copy of the Constitution (especially if you haven't read up on the Bill of Rights since 11th grade history class).

5. DIVERSIFY YOUR NEWS SOURCES: One crucial part of being an active citizen is reading up on the issues—and to do that, it's worth going beyond the articles your social media algorithms pre-select for you. Make a conscious effort to find reputable news sources that fall on the other side of the aisle (and, while you're at it, peep these quick tips on how to pick out fraudulent stories). And don't forget that political journalism is a two-way street. If you feel passionately about an issue, consider writing an op-ed piece to help spread the word.

6. DONATE WHERE YOU CAN: Volunteering is a great way to get engaged this year, and if you've got the resources, then a few well-placed donations—even micro-sums—can really help, too. Platforms like GiveWell help you engage in "high-impact giving" by highlighting respected organizations where your money can make a tangible difference.

7. RUN FOR OFFICE: Hey, you—yes, you! If you're reading this (and you're 18 or older), then now's the time to consider running for office. Not only is it the ultimate way to get politically involved, but you definitely won't be alone. This past year has witnessed a huge groundswell of local, first-time candidates. Orgs like Vote Run Lead, which supports female candidates, and Run for Something, which focuses on millennials, offer plenty of tools for first-timers looking for a crash course in public affairs. It's like the old saying goes—if you want something done right, sometimes you've gotta do it yourself.

1. VOTE!: Voting is a cornerstone of being an active citizen. And lest you assume that midterms aren't as important as a presidential election, think again: This year, "the whole House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, and most governorships will be at stake, along with hundreds of state legislative seats," as Vox points out. That's major. Start prepping now by putting the date in your calendar (it's Tuesday, November 6th, FYI), looking up your state's voter registration rules, and, if relevant, applying for an absentee ballot well in advance. Rock the Vote indeed.

2. HELP OTHERS VOTE: Think of registering to vote like putting on those oxygen masks on airplanes: Once you've got yourself prepped, be sure to help out other people around you. Organize a voter registration drive, take part in efforts to register community members at shopping centers, movie theaters, and other busy public places, and—even help ferry— your neighbors to the polls come November.

3. SUPPORT LOCAL CAMPAIGNS: All politics is local...which is why it's important to get involved with even small-scale political campaigns. Want to give your local candidate of choice a boost? Take part in phone banking efforts, embark on door-to-door canvassing outings, attend campaign events, and otherwise make sure you're up-to-date on your community's goings-on.

4. DON'T WAIT TO GET INVOLVED: Being an active citizen in 2018 isn't just about gearing up for November, however. It also means focusing on the here and now. Want to make sure your voice is heard, or unhappy about a particular policy? Brush up on scripts for calling your congresspeople, sign online petitions, attend a peaceful protest—even pick up a pocket copy of the Constitution (especially if you haven't read up on the Bill of Rights since 11th grade history class).

5. DIVERSIFY YOUR NEWS SOURCES: One crucial part of being an active citizen is reading up on the issues—and to do that, it's worth going beyond the articles your social media algorithms pre-select for you. Make a conscious effort to find reputable news sources that fall on the other side of the aisle (and, while you're at it, peep these quick tips on how to pick out fraudulent stories). And don't forget that political journalism is a two-way street. If you feel passionately about an issue, consider writing an op-ed piece to help spread the word.

6. DONATE WHERE YOU CAN: Volunteering is a great way to get engaged this year, and if you've got the resources, then a few well-placed donations—even micro-sums—can really help, too. Platforms like GiveWell help you engage in "high-impact giving" by highlighting respected organizations where your money can make a tangible difference.

7. RUN FOR OFFICE: Hey, you—yes, you! If you're reading this (and you're 18 or older), then now's the time to consider running for office. Not only is it the ultimate way to get politically involved, but you definitely won't be alone. This past year has witnessed a huge groundswell of local, first-time candidates. Orgs like Vote Run Lead, which supports female candidates, and Run for Something, which focuses on millennials, offer plenty of tools for first-timers looking for a crash course in public affairs. It's like the old saying goes—if you want something done right, sometimes you've gotta do it yourself.