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How Ohio Citizens Can Participate in 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, learn how you can participate in government as a citizen of Ohio. Discover how voting is important, how you can donate time to a campaign, change laws, and even run for a government office.

Voting in Ohio

Politics surrounds our daily lives. We hear about national politics in the news. Local politics decides how our communities will change. Laws govern many of our actions. This pervasiveness of politics gives us lots to talk about, but how many people actually participate?

If we look at the voter turnout for the state from information freely available on the state's website, we see that most people vote during a presidential election year yet don't participate in other years. Even during a presidential election, the voting percentage only accounts for around 70% of the people registered to vote. In other years, participation ranges between 25% and 55%.

Vote

The number one way anyone can participate in government, whether at the local level, the state level, or the national level, is to vote. With 2 million eligible but un-cast votes in the last presidential election, the state results might have looked very different. This is why voting is the most important part of the process: it's the place where you directly make choices for your community. Political activities, including campaigning for candidates and issues, getting issues on the ballot, and running for office, all have voting as their common element: without voting, there is no point to any of these other activities.

Voting is the most important way to participate.
vote

It's also important to vote every year because there are many positions in the state, county, and city government that need to be filled. There are also issues on each year's ballot that the people need to vote on to accept or reject. The candidates and issues on your state ballot often affect your life more than federal government actions. You get to help decide how your state runs.

Getting Involved

If you already vote but want to participate in government even more, there are many ways you can get involved. You can help support a political candidate or a ballot issue in ways as simple as putting a sticker on your car, displaying a sign in your yard, or donating a few dollars to a campaign. You can also sign a petition to help a candidate or issue get on the ballot.

If you have time to volunteer, you can do door-to-door canvassing to inform people about candidates and issues. You can even help encourage people to register to vote, adding to the pool of people helping to decide their state's future. Campaigns always need volunteers to help make phone calls, stuff envelopes, and keep things organized.

Political canvassing involves going door-to-door.
canvassing

Finally, if you want to have your voice heard, you should engage directly. In your city or town, you can attend city council and school board meetings. You can speak during these gatherings and offer suggestions. You can write letters to your representatives at any level of government, many of which have online communication options. Finally, you can participate in a political rally or protest to show how you along with many people share views on a particular issue.

Petitions

If even that is not quite enough involvement for you, as a citizen, you have the right to try to change the laws of your state. To do this, you use the time-honored practice of creating a petition. While a petition does not automatically change the laws, a successful petition can get the issue on the ballot for the next election. This lets your fellow citizens vote whether to make the changes you suggest.

How to Start a Petition

In Ohio, the petition process is a little complicated, but if you are passionate about an issue, it's worth the effort. The process is a little different depending on whether it's a constitutional amendment, new law, or a referendum, which asks the state to not yet enact a new law and to put it to a citizens' vote to determine if it should take effect or be eliminated.

You can start with a committee of three to five people to sponsor the petition. Then, you write the proposal including the full text of the law. You must submit the initial petition with 1,000 signatures in support of your law. The petition and its language must be reviewed by the Ohio Attorney General, the Secretary of State of Ohio, and the Ballot Board.

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