Citizen's Responsibility

Is the citizen’s responsibility merely to vote in an election? What is the responsibility of the citizen after they have cast their ballot? Read one view of the citizen’s ongoing responsibility.

An interest in our government is not simply going to the polls (all in today’s world going to the polls has been changed to going to the Post Office or the Drop Box) and filling out a paper ballot (or today, interfacing with a computerized system) on election day (or sometime during election season) and to vote for many elective offices such as President/Vice-President, US Senator, US Representative, State Senator, State Representative, County Commissioner(s), other county officers, School Board Members and others.

Too many people feel they have done their civic duty when they have cast their ballot. They feel good when their candidates win and feel bad when their candidate loses. But most importantly they feel their job is done. I have voted, now I will wait until the next election rolls around and vote then.

Voting is merely the first step in a citizen’s responsibility. Once an election is over and the winners are sworn into office, it is imperative their performance in their elected office is monitored. We are all familiar with the adage that politicians say one thing while running for office and do something completely different once in office. If an elected official does not follow the principles espoused during the election, it is the citizen’s responsibility to communicate their displeasure to the office-holder. Similarly, if the office-holder acts in accordance with the principles campaigned on, the citizens are responsible to congratulate them.

This requires that the citizen knows what actions are taking place in the US Senate and how their senator is voting, what actions are taking place in the US House of Representatives and how their representative is voting. The same is true for all the other elected representatives, state senators, state representatives, county commissioner(s), school board members, etc.

If a citizen knows what is happening in the various government bodies and what his/her representative in the government body is doing what should you do? Let your representative know what you feel about his actions. He/she should write, email, telephone the representative with his feelings. If the representative is acting in the way the citizen feels is best, he/she should let him know he/she is satisfied with his/her performance. If the representative is acting in a way that the citizen is unhappy with, he/she should let him know he/she is unsatisfied with his performance.

If the citizen is a member of a group that has an interest in politics, he/she should encourage the group to actively follow the actions of their elected representatives and let the representatives know how the group feels about their actions. This is true whether the group is a political party group, or a citizens group, a tax payers group or any other assembly of people. Not only is the individual responsible for monitoring the actions of their elected representatives but the group has the same responsibility. In fact, if the group shoulders this responsibility, the work of monitoring the elected representatives is spread over several people who share their findings, rather than everyone having to monitor all their representatives.

The group can have individuals assigned to each individual representative and the individuals report to the group. Then the group can vote on what actions to take based on the monitoring results. In this way the electorate can hold their representative accountable for their actions in their office. By being proactive we do not need to wait for the next election to show our feelings. We let the office holders know what the electorate feels about the job they are doing and whether they can expect the support of the electorate when the next election comes about. If they hope to be re-elected, they need to be responsive to the people who elected them in the first place and for the people who elected them in the first place to make sure they let the office holder know when is doing well and when he is failing.

Vince Peterson, February 2023

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