With Minneapolis municipal elections in the past, it will be nearly a year until most Twin Cities residents think about engaging in the political sphere. The U.S. midterm elections are seemingly and strangely close. Regardless, midterm elections, historically, have much lower voter turnout rates than presidential elections. Nonetheless, there are plenty of ways that students and members of the community can stay politically active before, during and after major elections.
While most of the political world follows President Donald Trump with close scrutiny, there are still several bills and policies being pushed through Congress, or across many levels of government. The latest to turn heads includes the Federal Communications Commission's review of the Obama Administration net neutrality laws. With the board set to repeal laws that prohibit internet providers from charging certain companies, such as Netflix or Disney, more for faster speeds on their site, many have sprung into action, opposing this FCC policy move. This move could let internet providers dictate what type of content consumers interact with. In Portugal, this type of net neutrality does not exist and consumers have to pay for additional website packages, on top of what they already pay in internet fees.
Repeal of the net neutrality law is a bad for consumers and for many small businesses unable to pay for faster speeds. However, people are fighting this movement and staying politically involved without an election. Battleforthenet.com has lead this movement for Americans against this policy shift. In one enormous show of internet protest, the movement boasts that people sent over 5 million emails and 124,000 calls to members of Congress. Congress members listen to their constituents, as well. All the pressure could get to at least one FCC chair, as well, and that vote could mean a different turnout; the board seems to be split 3-2, in favor of repealing net neutrality laws.
There are plenty of other instances in which constituent pressure can affect U.S. lawmaking and policy. Several major policies have been working through Congress and, much to the chagrin of some lawmakers, have stopped due to public perception, mounting pressure and lack of votes. The first large example of this fell upon Congress’ failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which establishes a network for Americans to register for healthcare. Due to mounting pressures of public opinion and voter backlash, the bill did not pass the Senate, despite getting reworked several times. The same is happening currently, with some Republican lawmakers failing to support a tax system overhaul created by their own party.
With such a divided Congress and shocking policy changes, it is important to remember that a citizen's vote in still important outside of elections. There are plenty of ways for citizens to engage government officials and curve policy, without monopolizing their time and still being effective. To facilitate this, we urge every voter to make a call to their representative in Congress, either in the House or Senate, and speak to them about an issue that is important to them. One can use if they are unsure of how to contact their representative. Many voters stop thinking about politics when they walk out of the polling booth; however, this country was created by the people, for the people and it should be seen as such.