By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Summarize other forms of political participation
While political scientists tend to focus on voting, there are other ways citizens participate in the policymaking process.
Citizens who want to do more than vote can involve themselves in political campaigns in a variety of ways from donating money to volunteering. Political campaigns are labor-intensive, and any candidate will tell you that volunteers are critical to a successful run for office. Campaign volunteers go door-to-door, distribute literature, post yard signs, make phone calls and help fold, stuff and stamp mailings.
Running for Office
While wealthy people with established careers have an advantage in elective politics, as in most things, ordinary people win elections throughout Texas every year, serving in positions from school board to the state legislature and beyond. In 1990, 18-year-old high school senior John Payton was elected Justice of the Peace in Collin County, Texas. His mother drove him to neighborhoods after school so he could campaign door-to-door. Payton defeated incumbent Jim Murrell in the Republican Primary before graduating from Plano East Senior High, then went on to win the November general election. Though dismissed initially as a “fluke,” Payton went on to serve nearly 30 years before stepping down in 2019.
On May 3, 1980, 13-year-old Cari Lightner was killed by a drunk driver, who had been released from jail two days before following his fourth DUI arrest. Cari’s mother, Candace Lightner and other parents of drunk driving accident victims formed Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, an interest group that has had a profound influence on the passage and enforcement of tougher laws against drunk driving. In Texas, political activists of every imaginable type have worked – alone or in groups – to influence public policy with varying degrees of success.
Some individuals and interest groups find the legal system to be an effective means of political participation. In 1973, there was almost no chance of elected officials overturning laws prohibiting abortion. Instead of seeking a political solution, activists sought relief through the courts. In Roe v. Wade, abortion advocates were able to overturn a Texas law prohibiting abortion, obtaining a court ruling that a woman’s right to an abortion is protected by an implied right of privacy in the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Supporters of environmental causes have found the court system to be similarly useful, stopping politically popular public works projects with lawsuits alleging violation of federal law, such as the Endangered Species Act.
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Political Participation. Authored by: Andrew Teas. License: CC BY: Attribution