5 Ways to Increase your Civic Engagement during Shelter in Place

While we may be sheltered at home for the upcoming weeks, that shouldn’t discourage you from staying politically active. In fact, the current situation is a great opportunity to get involved if you aren’t already. Oftentimes, civic engagement takes form in social interactions, but there are many ways you can get involved from the comfort of your own home. Here are five easy ways to boost your civic engagement during shelter in place.

  1. 1. Write a Letter to your Representative

    white paper with letters "love letters"

    If this shelter in place has given us anything, it is a lot more free time. Perhaps, you may be finding yourself reading more news and staying more up to date with current events. One way to fill your time that will allow you to increase your civic engagement is by writing to your representatives about the public policy issues on your mind, which could be anything related to the Coronavirus or issues you are facing personally due to the situation. Our elected officials spend the time reading through constituent responses, so it is not time wasted making your voice heard. In many cases, representatives will listen to their constituents so this is a great way to help influence the policy directions they will take. You can find the contact information on the government websites for your representatives, and these officials can be anyone from your city council, mayor, congressional representative, or senator. 

  2. 2. Engage in Political Discourse with Friends and Family

    If you are looking for conversation topics for your dinner table or something to talk about with friends over the phone, politics is not a topic that should be skirted around; even though many feel this way. While having conversations about controversial topics and are built upon individual beliefs and opinions, having respectful and open discourse is a vital skill in democracy. Learning how to communicate will serve you well in the future, so why not get to practicing during quarantine? Start by bringing up current events and sharing your opinions while respectfully listening to your friend or families opinions too. Give it a try, and if it doesn’t work out as you hoped, reflect on your experience. 

  3. 3. Research Contemporary Public Policy Areas 

    With technology bringing so much information to our fingertips, researching contemporary issues and staying up to date with the news is such a great option to spend time these days. We all have political opinions, but how much do you really know about individual issues such as gun reform, abortion access, and campaign finance? This is a great way to exercise your brain and dig in deep to these topics to better inform your political opinions and voting in the future. Additionally, this skill goes hand in hand with the two preceding suggestions, because learning more about public policy areas and current events will help you better understand what you contribute to conversations and strengthen your arguments when writing to a representative.

  4. 4. Diversify your News Sources

    News magazine covers on a rack, including Time and The Economist

    In light of this extra time, you have the chance to spend more time on different news sources. While we often will go to our favorite sites or podcasts when we are in a hurry to get our daily news, you probably can expand your sources since life has slowed down in shelter in place. Try to hear from both sides of the political spectrum by diversifying your news sources. This will make you even more educated and increase your civic engagement as your news consumption will better inform you than before. 

  5. 5. Register (or Re-register) to Vote!

    If you aren’t registered to vote, it only takes around five minutes and is an easy way to make sure your opinions count. This process has been made very easy for California voters and is accessible on https://registertovote.ca.gov/. One of the most important tools we are equipped with is the right to vote. If you are over 18, put your voice to work and make sure you are registered to vote for the upcoming election this November. Bonus points for those who are under the age of 18, in California if you are 16 or 17 you can actually pre-register to vote so you will be all set by the time you are of voting age. Especially if you are a college student, make sure you have updated your permanent address if you have moved since you first registered to vote. 

     

    On the note of reregistering to vote, this may just be the perfect time to request an absentee ballot, also known as voting by mail. Due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, an absentee ballot may be a way to secure your vote if in-person voting is restricted due to mitigation efforts. Luckily if you are registered in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah, or Hawaii all citizens will be receiving absentee ballots for the 2020 election as a precaution against the spread of Coronavirus and to ensure everyone the opportunity to vote. 

So if you have been bored at home during the Shelter In Place, then you can consider some of these ways to keep you busy while also boosting your civic engagement. Watching the news can be tiring and often make you feel powerless, especially during this time, but these five easy activities will hopefully empower you to start making a difference in the political process right from the comfort of your own home.