How Citizens Participate in Government: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Laurie Smith
There are many different was that regular citizens can participate in all levels of government. In this lesson, learn how people can be actively involved in local, state, and federal governments.

Active Citizens

What should you do if you are worried about something happening in your neighborhood, like litter or crime? Or what if you think a law is unfair and needs to be fixed? If people aren't involved in their governments, then these things will never change. But if citizens are active, they can make big changes in their communities, their states, and even the country. Some of the biggest historical changes, like equal rights for African Americans and women, have happened because people got active!

Voting

There are different levels of government, and citizens can get involved in different ways at each level. However, one of the best ways that people can participate in all levels of government is to go vote. Each year in November, elections are held all across the country. Elections are when people are chosen by voting to serve in governmental jobs and offices.

Would you believe that many people don't go to vote at all? It's true! And some people only vote during a presidential election, even though there are usually several local and state elections between presidential elections. However, it's important to vote at every opportunity. There are important jobs being filled and, in some areas, important decisions about how things will be run, and every citizen should have their say. You might be too young to vote right now, but you can encourage your family to go vote. Go with them, and learn how the process works so you'll be prepared when it's time.

Local Government

How can people participate in local governments? There are actually many ways. Local participation is easy because this is the government that's right in your neighborhood. People can go to meetings and listen to presentations by local government officials. They can also sign petitions, which are documents that people sign to try to persuade government leaders to do something. For example, let's say you want a park to be built in your neighborhood. You might get people to sign a petition to show that lots of members of the community think this is a good idea.

State Level

There are ways people can participate in state governments as well. Since the offices of state representatives might not be right around the corner, many citizens write letters or make phone calls to communicate with their state representatives.

Citizens can also help with political campaigns. A campaign is when people work together to achieve something. When people want to be elected for a governmental office, they ask people to help with their campaign. Volunteers put signs in neighborhoods, wear buttons, and call community members to convince them to vote for their candidates.

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