Making Democracy Work

Ten Ways to Get Politically Involved

How can I get more involved in the political system?

1. Register to vote

If you are not registered, you cannot vote. If you don't vote, you don't have a say in who represents you in government.

Click here to learn more about Registering to Vote.

2. Figure out where you live

This may seem like a strange directive, but it's an important one.

The City of Richardson straddles two counties and two school districts. The Richardson ISD (RISD) covers parts of Richardson, Dallas, and Garland. The city and school district have been carved up into several state legislative districts. It can be very confusing finding out who you can vote for.

Click here to find out which county you live in. If you live in the Collin County portion of Richardson, you live in the Plano ISD (PISD). If you live in the Dallas County portion of Richardson, you live in the Richardson ISD.

3. Find out who represents you, and how you can contact your representatives

Click here to find out about Your Elected Officials. Be sure to view the League of Women Voters of Richardson's Guide to Elected Officials, which lists the national, state, and local elected officials for residents of Richardson and the RISD. It also includes the year each official's term expires, and includes links to contact information.

If you live in Dallas County, you can find out the name of every elected official who represents you at every level of government. The Dallas County Elections Department has a Precinct Lookup by Address page where you can enter your address to view the complete list. At this time, the Collin County Elections Department does not have a similar feature.

To find out who your representatives are in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives, the Texas Senate, the Texas House, and the State Board of Education, go to the State Legislature's Who Represents Me page and type in your address.

4. Contact elected officials about issues that are important to you

There are many ways to contact officials, but it's hard to know which is the most effective. The websites listed in our Guide to Elected Officials provide the most current addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses (or embedded email forms) for contacting officials.

Sometimes you can speak directly with officials when they are in your community. City Council and School Board members will sometimes meet with neighborhood groups and others. State and federal elected officials sometimes hold town hall meetings in their districts. If you ask to be put on an email list for elected officials, you will likely be notified of such meetings.

Local officials will probably read letters or emails sent to them, and may even respond. They will also likely listen to voicemails. State and national officials may never see the actual communications themselves, since they are more likely to have staff members who receive and tabulate communications. They do pay attention, however, to the number of communications for or against particular issues, particularly when those communications come from voters in their districts.

State and federal officials typically have offices both in the capital city (Austin and Washington, D.C. respectively) and in their districts. Some experts say that a phone call to staff in the district office is the most effective method of getting your point across.

5. Join or donate to the League of Women Voters

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. We never support or oppose any political party or candidate.

The League of Women Voters has two separate and distinct roles:

  • Voter Service/Citizen Education: we present unbiased nonpartisan information about elections, the voting process, and issues. We register voters, hold candidate forums, publish Voters Guides, and hold public educational meetings.

  • Action/Advocacy: we are nonpartisan, but, after study, we use our positions to advocate for or against particular policies in the public interest.

Membership in the League is open to women and men of all ages. Click here to Join the League of Women Voters.

Click here to Donate to the League of Women Voters to support the work we do in the community.

6. Get involved on the local level

Local officials are elected in nonpartisan elections. In other words, they do not run as a member of a particular political party, so the parties are not involved in the election.

City of Richardson

A good way to find out what's going on in the city is to serve on the board of your local homeowners' association (HOA). HOA presidents meet regularly with city staff and are briefed on issues of importance to their neighborhoods. Click here for a map and list of Homeowners' Associations in Richardson.

Perhaps the best way to find out about the city is to attend or view City Council meetings. The Richardson City Council holds regular meetings on Monday evenings at City Hall. Click on the link and go to the bottom of the page for a schedule of meetings.

Video of meetings of the Richardson City Council and City Planning Commission are also available online.

Another way to be involved in the City of Richardson is through service on one of the city's Boards and Commissions. Volunteer citizens are appointed to the city's ten boards and commissions by the City Council. Service on boards and commissions is sometimes viewed as good training for those interested in seeking elected office in the future.

Richardson Independent School District

A good way to find out about what's going on in the school district is to serve on the board of your local Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Local PTA presidents meet regularly with the district's administrative staff and are briefed on issues of importance to their local schools. To join your local PTA, go the website of the RISD Council of PTAs, click the "Join Now" button, and go to the second page for a list of individual schools.

The RISD Board of Trustees is the group of elected officials who set policy for the school district. Click here for the board's Meeting Schedule. Click here to view archived agendas and board meeting videos.

The RISD does provide some opportunities for community members to volunteer, both in the schools themselves and on a limited number of district-wide committees. Click here to view Volunteer Opportunities in the RISD. Service on district-wide committees is sometimes viewed as good training for those interested in seeking elected office in the future.

Plano Independent School District

As with the RISD, serving on the board of your local PTA is a good first step. To join your local PTA, click on individual schools from the list on the website of the PISD Council of PTAs.

The PISD Board of Trustees is the group of elected officials who set policy for the school district, and this link will take you their meeting schedule. Click here for PISD meeting agendas, minutes, and videos.

PISD offers community members the opportunity to volunteer in the schools as a mentor, and also to serve on district-wide advisory committees. Service on district-wide committees is sometimes viewed as good training for those interested in seeking elected office in the future.

7. Get involved with a local political party

Elections at the county, state, and national level are partisan, meaning that candidates are affiliated with political parties.

Click here for links to the Websites of Local Political Parties. These websites usually have information about candidates, elected officials, upcoming events, and ways to get involved.

8. Donate to or work on a political campaign

A good way to influence the outcome of elections is by supporting individual candidates for office. You can donate money to campaigns (within the limits set by the Federal Election Commission), or you can volunteer your time.

Candidates sometimes have websites and/or Facebook pages listing contact information. For City Council elections, the City Secretary's office has publicly available contact information. For RISD Board of Trustees elections, the candidates' filings with contact information are available online.

For elections in which the candidates run as members of a political party, the local party websites should provide contact information for their campaigns.

9. Work at the polls on Election Day

The Dallas County Elections Department website has information about working at the polls for Dallas County residents.

The Collin County Elections Department website has information about working at the polls for Collin County residents.

10. Run for office

Whether at the local, county, state, or national level, you can run for office. For each office, there may be age requirements, residency requirements, the need for signatures on a petition, and/or filing fees. There are forms to be filed, deadlines to be met, and detailed campaign finance reporting requirements.

The Texas Secretary of State's website has information on Running for Local Office. The City Secretary's office and the RISD Elections office will also be good sources of information about running for local office.

The Texas Secretary of State's website also has information about Running for Office in General Elections. Local political parties will also be good sources of information about running in a General Election.