How To Get Involved in the Texas Political Process
By: Hunter White
Editor’s Note: Hunter White is an 2014 graduate of Southwestern and is the Communications Director of RAMP (Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition)
How to make your voice heard
Every two years, the fanfare begins, American flags wave, and people post pictures of their stickers proudly declaring that they have voted. Sadly, only 21.5% of people actually voted in this year’s primary, the 2nd lowest turnout in the nation. Often people feel like they are not involved in the political process, they feel like their voice are not heard. Well I am writing today to inform students how they can make their voices heard, and how they can approach bringing up the issues that are most important to them to their state representatives.
Who Represents me?
The first step to getting involved with the political process is discovering who represents you. Surprisingly, while many people are informed about the presidential elections, the people who affect us most in this state are largely unknown. Every person in this state is represented by a state senator and state representatives. To discover who represents you, open up your laptop and Google “who represents me.” It’s that easy. Once you have entered the address of the county where you are registered to vote, you will be given the contact information for your state repetitive.
Once you know who represents you and how to contact them, it is helpful to do a bit of searching about their record, political positions, and party affiliation. All of this can be accomplished by a few minutes of Googling. Once you have an idea of who your state representatives are and what their positions are, you should craft the positions you want to advocate for to fit their ideology. Sometimes this is easy, like focusing on the fiscal responsibility of criminal justice reform for a Republican, or highlighting the constitutional protections guaranteeing free expression to a Democrat.
Once you have your position tailored to appeal to your state representative, contact their office by phone or email, and let them know who you are, a little about yourself, and ask to speak with your state representative about their legislative priorities for January 2017, and about what they accomplished in 2015. Be polite, be persistent, and let them talk. You may have to reach out more than once to get an actual meeting but be understanding about their schedules, as all of our reps are currently campaigning for reelection.
Once you are able to have a meeting with the representative, be engaged, be enthusiastic, and be an active listener. Once they have answered some questions about what they have accomplished, and what they plan on accomplishing in the future, bring up your concerns. Let them know you represent a group of likeminded people in their district, and relate your argument as clearly, and succinctly as possible.
What does this accomplish?
Many may ask what the point of this exercise is. It’s a lot of work for a thirty-minute conversation with someone who may not agree with your belief. From personal experiences contacting state representatives, lobbying in Austin, and bringing up issues that many may find controversial, I can promise you that your time is not wasted. State representatives are our most direct representatives that the average person can speak with. Letting them know how people in their district feel about issues that are important to them has a profound effect of their understanding of who they represent. Not many people take the time to reach out and speak with them, and when they do, state representatives take notice.