Voting is the First Thing, Not the Last Thing. Voting is the Beginning, Not the End. Voting is the Start, Not the Finish.

Many voters believe that once they’ve voted that their responsibility is over and done. Especially, if the person they voted for wins. They believe that it is now in the hands of the person they voted for, and that the elected official will now fight for them and the issues they care about. The voter believes that the elected official has all the answers and knows everything about all the issues; noting could be further from the truth.

After an election, whether the person you voted for wins or loses, you now need to become an advocate for the issues you care about. It is easier to fight and advocate for your issues when the person you voted for wins. This is because one assumes they have a voice inside the walls of government. On the other hand, it can be more challenging to advocate for your issues when the opponent wins. However, regardless of whether your candidate wins or loses you still have the responsibility to advocate for the issues you really care about. Who knows, depending on how well you advocate, there is always a possibility to get the opposition to support and push for your issues. That is why voting is the first thing, not the last thing. Voting is the beginning, not the end. Voting is the start, not the finish. You must always advocate for your issues if you really want to change your present reality.

There are many ways to advocate for your issues. Many of us are familiar with Community organizing, Boycotts, acts of civil disobedience (i.e. protests and occupations), door–to-door canvasing, public meetings, political campaigning, marches, selective buying campaigns, and the arts to name a few. But, the one I want to stress is holding your elected officials accountable (city, county, state and federal) by engaging them. Whether you visit a policy maker, attend committee hearings, write a letter, call, text, email, fax or use social media it really doesn’t matter—as long as you organize through regularly advocating for your issues with your elected official. First, it’s important to know what the duties and responsibilities are of each of the various elected/appointed bodies that represent you so that you know where to go for your issue. Other important information you need to know:

• Name and contact info of YOUR representative • Committee names, function and members

• Hearing and committee schedules

• The bill/issue deadline dates – When is the last day you can get your bill/issue heard

• The processes for community input or testimony – whether meetings are open to the public and/or allow public participation.

• The voting record of the elected official – how have he/she voted on previous issues. – Know where policy makers stand on specific issues

• Best dates and times to meet with your elected official

• Build a good relationship with policy maker’s staff and legislative team.

It is imperative that we constantly advocate for ourselves, our families and our communities if we want to change our present condition and see our dreams of a more inclusive and equitable society realized.

In advocating for our issues, we must:

• Start now • Know our community well

• Be genuine • Be clear about what we want

• Use various strategies

• Build strong and lasting relationships

• Work together

• Listen to and learn from each other

• Hold yourself and others accountable

• Be dedicated for the long term

• Never, ever stop fighting!

James Trice, CEO, Public Policy Project 6.26.19