We’re All the Government
Our obligations – the things we must do as a citizen – are to obey the laws, pay our taxes, serve on juries and register for the selective service (the draft). But there’s one thing that we sometime forget: the obligation to support and defend the US Constitution. Every elected official swears an oath to do just that, but citizens have that same obligation. It’s our Constitution and we need to protect it.
Responsibilities are those things we do for the common good, where our actions benefit the larger community rather than just our individual interests. Our primary responsibility to to vote. Another is to attend public meetings and hearings, such as council meetings and town halls. Public hearings give citizens the chance to voice their opinions and talk to their elected officials. Citizens can petition their government to enact a new law or change a current one. Last but not least, you can run for office.
GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE (COUNTY)
What does the county government do? It sets and collects taxes, provides fire and safety services and public schools, plans for economic development, directs health services, issues permits and licenses, sets planning and zoning regulations, transportation, animal control and much more.
To make it easy, think of the County Executive as the President and the County Council as Congress. Only the Council can pass legislation; the County Executive can veto any legislation passed by the Council, but the veto can be overridden by a majority of the Council.
Howard County is divided into five districts with each district having one elected council member. Howard County Elections are held every four years during what is called the “Mid-term elections” meaning that the election is held two years after the Presidential election.
Officials that are voted on every four years are:
- County Executive
- Howard County Council – 5 members
- Board of Education – 7 members, staggered elections
- Clerk of the Court
- Judges of the Orphans Court
- Register of Wills
- States Attorney
We also vote for Judges Circuit for 15 year terms.
STATE LEGISLATURES AND GERRYMANDERNG
The lower houses of the state legislatures have an extremely influential role in national elections. Every 10 years, following the national census, state legislatures redraw Congressional districts to reflect population changes. Each state is apportioned a number of seats which approximately corresponds to its share of the aggregate population of the 50 states. For this reason, undercounting underserved populations (the homeless, immigrants, low income, etc.) has a massive effect on the national elections.
The map is drawn by the party holding the majority in the State House. Thus, who you vote for as your representative in the State House can directly impact the election of your members of Congress.
Gerrymandering, the practice of redrawing Congressional districts to directly benefit one party over another, has also been called “How to Steal an Election”. This practice has been used effectively by both major political parties. For the last several elections the Republican Party has focused efforts on electing GOP state representatives with the goal of changing the partisan makeup of the US Congress.
To retake control of the US Congress Democrats/Progressives must not only retain the seats they currently hold, but also swing seats held by the GOP.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Fill out your census forms, and encourage others to do so as well.
- Volunteer as a census taker.
- Help register voters, especially in underserved areas.
- Help with GOTV campaigns.
- Volunteer to drive voters to their polling stations.
- Be an election monitor.
- Run for office!