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Citizen Participation in Arizona's Government

Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

In this lesson, we'll show how you can participate in government if you are living in Arizona, as well as ways you may already be participating. We'll discuss voting, campaigning, public service, petitions, and running for office.

You Can Be Involved

Far too often, people think they have little say over what the government does and how it influences their lives. Sadly, this misguided belief prevents them from using the power they have in this great democracy. Your power to influence and engage with government extends from your local township to the federal government with opportunities to act in your county and state as well. Some means stay the same while others vary from state to state.

You are Involved Every Day

There are many ways people interact and participate in their state and local government every day without even realizing it. Paying taxes helps to provide financial support for the many programs you enjoy, such as public education, road maintenance, and emergency services.

You are also involved in government when you read or watch news stories about politics and law. Staying informed helps you make good choices when you vote. If you participate in a discussion about politics, new laws, or state regulations, you are actually participating in government because that exchange of ideas can help influence how others might vote for candidates or on issues placed on the ballot. Even protesting helps inform the government of how people feel about certain issues.


These people are protesting the treatment of undocumented immigrants.
protestor


Duty

Any of us may get a summons for jury duty, a responsibility of every citizen to aid our legal system and help ensure justice is served. More often than not, with the new systems many states use, you won't have to show up every morning and wait around. Often, you call the night before to find out if they need you to come in the next day. You may need to sit on a jury to listen to the evidence in a case.

Another way some citizens participate in government at the state or federal level is to serve in the Armed Forces. At the national level, this includes the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. This can be in an active duty capacity or as a member of the reserves. At the state level, some people serve in the National Guard, a reserve-like military group that focuses on the needs of their home state first before being called to other states or to active duty.

Voting and Campaigning

The most important responsibility for anyone wanting to help decide what their government does is to vote and to do so from an informed position. You should research your candidates and understand who they are, their position on the issues, and whether you feel they will do a good job.


Even a sign in the front yard is participation.
signs


You can also help participate by volunteering on a campaign. This might involve door-to-door canvassing, phone calls, putting up yard signs, donating to a candidate (the amount of donations allowed varies), or even putting a bumper sticker on your car. You can also campaign for an issue on the ballot. You also might encourage people to register to vote by explaining the importance of their participation.

Getting an Issue on the Ballot

We've mentioned people voting for or against an issue on the ballot, but did you know you have the power to put those issues there for your fellow citizens to consider? In many states, there are special provisions for citizens to challenge existing laws, suggest new laws, or even modify the state's constitution. Arizona makes the process even easier with most of the forms and paperwork available through an online system.


In the voting booth, you often choose candidates as well as decide on legal issues.
voting booths


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