By Alyssa Stevenson
As we've entered the 85th legislative session here in Texas, and ushered in a new president nationally, it can feel like there is an overwhelming amount of political chatter. From Facebook to the newspaper to the dining room table, political tensions continue to run high. No matter how you vote,, we've got ten ways for you to get involved, make your voice heard, and make an impact on your community (and even our nation). Read on to find out how.
1. Mark your calendar to vote on May 6th. We've always said that local politics are incredibly important, and we still believe that. We've got a potential tax freeze on the ballot and several potential city council candidates to consider. Before you show up to the polls head out to a forum (we're hosting one at Dan's on April 17th!) to hear from the candidates and help you make an informed decision.
2. Register to vote. Better yet, become a volunteer deputy registrar so that you can help register people to vote. Nationwide, only 71% of eligible voters are even registered to vote, and of those, even fewer turn up at the polls. Texas only saw 42.6% voter turnout in the November election. In Denton, only 48% of eligible voters made it to the polls. Let's change that.
2. Join the League of Woman Voters, and keep track of their upcoming events. They're a nonpartisan group that is focused on policy education and active participation in politics and government. They host local candidate forums, regular educational meetings, and tackle policy issues from public school funding to homelessness.
3. Denton County Friends of the Family is an incredible resource for women, men and families experiencing domestic abuse. "Denton County Friends of the Family provides compassionate, comprehensive services to those impacted by rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence, while partnering with our community to promote safety, hope, healing, and justice. The impact in our community can be seen in the 8,221 days of emergency shelter provided in 2016, the 2,497 calls answered by our crisis hotline or the 24,254 hours of victims services provided through counseling, education, legal services and advocacy. Our team of experts at Friends of the Family impact the lives of women and families daily. They are authorities in their fields and Friends of the Family is the only agency specializing in helping victims of sexual and domestic violence in the entire county. Knowing that 1 in 4 women are victims of violence gives insight into the need that we have here. I am honored to be a part of an organization with such knowledge, expertise and impact." - Randi Skinner, Denton County Friends of the Family
4. Feel overwhelmed by the onslaught of passed bills, executive orders and the legislative jargon that just keeps piling up? Countable is a great app that helps you follow bills tailored to your interests. They keep track of what your representatives are up to and gives you a streamlined way to communicate with your lawmakers.
5. Call your representatives. Fired up about any of the million and one issues at hand? Great- let them know. I know we're all busy. I know half of us keep putting off calling the dentist to schedule the next appointment. Some of this is bigger than your plaque buildup. Take ten minutes during your lunch, on your daily commute, or in between staff meetings to make a call.
State Representative: Lynn Stucky (512)463-0582
State Senator: Craig Estes: (512)463-8874
US Congress: Dr. Michael Burgess (940)497-5031 or (202)225-7772
Sen. John Cornyn: (202)224-2934
Sen. Ted Cruz: (202)224-5922
6. Feel like you want to strengthen your chosen political party locally? Go for it. You've got the Denton County GOP and the Denton Democrats who both rally support locally for their chosen candidates and elected officials.
7. Influence the next generation. Mentor Denton advocates for at risk youth, and pairs them with mentors for 1 hour a week every week during the school year to help them find stability. Helping these students increases graduation rates, and lowers incarceration rates. Which means more eligible and hopefully informed voters in the future. We have to continue to care for our youth because they truly are our future.
8. Volunteer with any of the many organizations we mention, or the several we haven't. There are community organizations and non-profits for just about everything in the area. Whatever cause you advocate for, find the organization that is already supporting it. Serve Denton, and United Way of Denton County are both larger organizations that support non-profits in the area and help connect volunteers for their outreach needs.
9. Think outside of yourself. Advocate for those who are often underrepresented in our city. Tie your success to the success of others. Denton has a history of division, but also a history of building bridges. But there is still work to be done. We aren't successful as a community until we've made sure that all aspects of our community are experiencing successes.
10. The 85th Texas Legislative session is currently underway. There are hundreds of bills already filed, and several making waves and headlines. There are bills that focus on public education, housing and criminal justice, bathroom bills and more - that are all being considered by our representatives and being decided on. Stay informed and follow along. The legislative session ends May 29th, so votes will be happening quickly and the session will be over before you know it.