Whether you’re reading news online or in print, or tuning into TV or radio news programs, you’re likely to see something that stirs your emotions. War, terrorism, domestic violence, a shaky economy, environmental threats, growing gaps between the haves and have-nots, even natural disasters—it’s easy to feel anger, frustration, and even helplessness. What can one person do to affect such broad and often complicated turmoil throughout the world, in the United States, and even in our local communities?

None of us has a magic wand, but each of us has another kind of power: the power to speak out. It’s undeniable that government—whether local, state, or national—is where tough issues get addressed, and we all get our say about who’s there shaping policy. While big money goes into influencing our thinking and our votes, ultimately each of us has the freedom to do what seems right to us in the voting booth.

Gender matters here. Lots of research shows that women think differently and vote differently from men. Campaign pros know it, and they’ll be targeting their messages and get-out-the-vote efforts to attract women.

Gender matters for officeholders, too. Women of both parties lead differently, with implications for how government works and what it does. Years of research tell us that elected women bring fresh issues to the public agenda, collaborate across party lines, and include people in the governing process who haven’t always been pulled in.

So what are you doing this election year? It’s too late for you to run now (although you might tuck that idea away and prepare to run in the future!) but it’s by no means too late to make a difference. Here’s what you can do:


New Jerseyans have until October 14 to register to vote.
You can register by mail and, once registered, you can vote by mail too. So there’s no good excuse for failing to vote, and countless close races demonstrate that a few votes sometimes make all the difference.

Now that you’re registered, don’t forget to vote on November 4. Think your preferred candidate has no chance? That might be true—but only if too few people who favor that person bother to vote. And make it possible for other people to vote, too. You could provide child-care or drive someone to the poll, or just offer that friendly reminder that it’s Election Day.

Lots of campaigns could use your help.
New Jersey is unusual in holding its state elections in odd-numbered years, but in even years like this one, we have races for the U.S. Senate and all 12 U.S. House seats, plus lots of local races and even two “Public Questions” that voters get to decide. So you can easily get behind someone or something that matters a lot to you. In particular, you could help elect more women. You don’t have to support just any woman, but find one you admire and help her win. Check out a website or visit a campaign office to find out what you can do. Despite all our modern technology, door knocking and phone calling haven’t gone out of fashion. Or just focus on persuading your friends and family.

Tell people what you think.
Write a letter to the editor of your favorite online or print publication; maybe someone doesn’t know something you do, and they might be persuaded by your perspective. Share links on social media; if an article or video impressed you, it might impress someone else too.

Doing all of that can lead to two important results. First, you might actually help bring about change for the better—not solving every complex problem instantly, but inching forward. And second, you’ll have a right to rejoice or complain—because you did your part.

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