Moving the Dial on Civic Engagement in SC

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SC Appleseed has launched a new initiative focused on increasing civic engagement and voter participation rates in South Carolina — an initiative that could have a significant impact on our ability to move the dial on advocating for issues of poverty across the state.

WHY CIVIC ENGAGEMENT?

Big Dubya photo from Flickr - Precinct 86 voting boothsVoting is a way of connecting to and caring about our neighborhoods, our government, and the direction of public policy in South Carolina. Research shows that people who vote are more likely to volunteer, advocate, and be active locally in many other ways. Elected officials are more likely to respond to the needs and concerns of neighbors that turn out on Election Day, and are more responsive to agencies and organizations that promote voting.

As SC Appleseed continues to advocate for low-income South Carolinians on issues such as housing, education, hunger, public benefits, domestic violence, immigration, and health care, we know that we cannot achieve systemic change alone. We need the most vulnerable, the left out, and the left behind to get engaged. And we need those who care about the future of South Carolina and our mission to bring opportunity and justice to all in this state to join them.

Our communities are more likely to thrive when we participate, but participation shouldn’t stop at the voting booth.

HOW DOES SC COMPARE?

ISouth Carolina Mapn the June primaries of this year,  only 16% of South Carolinians voted. The irony amid such pitiful voting numbers is that South Carolina actually scores well against other states when it comes to participation in the civic process, including voting. The University of South Carolina Upstate and the National Conference on Citizenship recently released the South Carolina Civic Health Index. The report reveals how residents in South Carolina engage in civic activities such as voting, volunteering and interacting with neighbors.

Overall, the report finds South Carolina’s civic health to be stable, but with key areas of weakness in political participation and civic social connections.

“South Carolinians are some of the most active voters in the country,” said Abraham Goldberg, the report’s author and a professor at University of South Carolina Upstate. “But voting is only one small piece of our civic life and our state has some work to do. This report shows that too many of us aren’t likely to stay politically engaged after leaving the voting booth and that too many of us are disconnected from our communities and each other.”

Compared to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, South Carolina ranked among the highest communities for traditional forms of political involvement such as voter registration (13th), voting in the 2010 midterm elections (14th), voting in the 2012 presidential election (19th).

However, S.C. residents ranked near the bottom for other forms of political action such as contacting public officials (48th). The state also ranked in the bottom half of all states when it came to key social strength indicators such as exchanging favors with neighbors frequently (30th), having trust in neighbors (38th) and attending public meetings about town or school affairs (44th).

VOTE AND GET ENGAGED

<> on June 17, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.Each legislative session, our elected officials are faced with tough choices about how to improve our state, how to allocate resources, and which opportunities to pursue. They are not only addressing the problems of today, but also making decisions that will impact our future. With big decisions like whether or not to accept federal support for Medicaid (among many other issues) our leaders need to hear from all of us. Voting is important, because we need the right people elected, but your calls, emails and letters truly shape the way our leaders use their time in office.

If they don’t hear from us, then how can we expect them to work for us?

Our first goal with this initiative is to help South Carolinians get registered to vote in the upcoming November 4th election. All the while, we are encouraging citizens to stay involved with issues and to contact their elected officials.

We firmly believe that increasing political and community engagement, educational attainment, and civic involvement will improve the quality of life for all South Carolinians.

UPCOMING CIVIC ENGAGEMENT EVENTS:

 WE’RE LOOKING FOR MORE OPPORTUNITIES:

We are looking for opportunities to speak about civic engagement or help people register to vote. If you would like us to speak to your group or have a location where we can help your members, customers, neighbors or colleagues register to vote, we want to hear from you! Please contact Lauren Knottek with any potential opportunities.