Beyond the Ballot with ACT & ASUWB: Student Activism and Civic Engagement

Written by: Dhruv Verma

On Tuesday, September 29th, A.C.T leaders held an engaging event “Beyond the Ballot: Engaging in Activist Work Beyond Elections” for students to reflect on what virtual civic engagement looks like and how students can get involved. At a time of uncertainty, where COVID has put a temporary stop or even a permanent stop to many live community activities, outputs such as virtual technology have risen to give a platform to organizations to plan and encourage community involvement. 

Fatima Jamal and Mumina Ali (panel) spoke on behalf of all students to engage in important discussions by beginning with the questions: what is civic engagement? Why are the voices of young people crucial in our society? What is the purpose of civic engagement? And why is voting not enough? 

Civic engagement, by a given definition, is the act of reaching out to the marginalized communities and making sure everything becomes stronger by building relationships and educating everyone. 

Next, the panelists introduced ways to be involved in civic engagement which include voting, phone/text banking, campaigning, lobbying, volunteering, supporting local businesses, and keeping track of your ecological footprint. Now, these were just some of the many ways individuals can become involved in civic engagement. To raise a voice on a concern, the organization came up with a relevant issue that one of these ways of civic engagement is not appealing enough.

The discussion continued by referring to some points about the disadvantages of voting including voting not being the most appealing solution of all because it is not enough to change our system. Panelists pointed out because of existing voting laws, not everyone is able to vote. Only a select few voters are able to vote for a long period of time. As a result, not everyone is represented in the change that voting has the potential to make.

Continuing to point out the barriers to voting, the discussion alluded to current voter laws that directly or indirectly exclude: undocumented status, disability status, workers, people of color, incarcerated persons, indigenous persons. Voting suppression was categorized as purging voter statuses, gerrymandering, inconsequential ballot rules, long lines on election day, shortening the voter period, and closing voting centers.

Rolling to the next mode of civic engagement, the panelists discussed the importance of community collectiveness starting off by answering the question ‘What is Activism’? 

Activism as stated out is efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society toward a perceived greater good. 

Some major historical events which included activism were present in the mid 20th century like Brown vs Board, Montgomery Bus Boycott, lunch counter sit-ins, 1963 Children’s crusade, Los Angeles walkouts to demand schools, protests against dress code and grooming standards, Earth Day protests, Vietnam War protests, and Tinker vs. Des Moines. 

A.C.T panelists concluded Beyond the Ballot by sharing upcoming UWB events that showcase information on how to get more engaged in the voting process and learn how to get more involved in the election.

For King County, October 26th is the deadline for online and mail in voter registration and November 3rd is election day, ballots must be postmarked and dropping off in drop boxes before close at 8pm. For more information on the election and voting, visit vote.org. 

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