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The importance of political participation after the election

Alternative ways to participate in the political process

Students take photos of a protest against the outcome of the presidential election that was set up on the steps of the Old Main building on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.
Students take photos of a protest against the outcome of the presidential election that was set up on the steps of the Old Main building on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016.

The 2016 election cycle is over, but that doesn't mean millennial voters should shy away from political participation, according to ASU professors.

While casting a ballot is the most common form of participation in the political process, politics and global studies professor Richard Herrera defined political participation as several activities undertaken by an individual with the purpose of affecting the political sphere. 

"Voting, attending rallies or signing a petition at your local grocery store are all different forms of political participation," Herrera said.

With an increased number of political protests erupting across the country, it is important for citizens to explore alternative ways in which they can express their political discontent, he said.

Herrera's academic research has focused on political participation and how it affects policy making in the U.S. He believes voters should be aware of the different ways they could express their grievances. 

Herrera said citizens can participate in civil society, which is an important aspect of political participation. 

"Activities like volunteering, attending political events or by joining an interest group are different ways an individual can be involved in politics," Herrera said. 

Herrera said it is particularly important for younger generations to invest their time learning about political issues. As new voters, they must realize their importance in the political process, and if they don't it could lead to problems in the future, he said.

"The millennial generation will be confronted with political issues like re-distributive policy in which the funding of Medicaid and Social Security will affect the future of this country and their well-being," Herrera said. 

Political participation is essential to properly addressing the problems of citizens, Herrera said, noting grassroots political involvement is also a way to improve to gap between the people and government. 

Grassroots politics is a term that is not frequently used in today's society, he said. Interacting with the community  is something that has been left in past. 

"Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders touched on the idea of grassroots political participation and the important role that it has in representing the problems of the average voter," Herrera said. 

This kind of political activism has been left in the shadows for decades, but Herrera said he believes that this could change with the increase in young voter participation. 

For young voters, the 2016 elections were their first exposure to the political process. Voter registration in Arizona increased by 352,503 from the 2014 elections, according to data from the Arizona Secretary of State.

Sheldon W. Simon, ASU political science professor, said he believes the increased voter turnout is a reflection of the changing demographics throughout the state. 

"The increased number of eligible voters is due to polarization of political issues — increased prices for education promotes political activism with the younger generation, issues regarding immigration has increased the participation within the Latino community," Simon said.

He explained the importance of joining an interest group in order to effectively promote political change. Simon said he believes that unlike spontaneous public protests, interest groups are more organized. 

"Public protests have a tendency of being unorganized, having different ideas on what they want to resolve," he said. "An interest group works on issues continuously, without having to worry about individuals being hurt due to the chaos that is mass gathering."

Simon said in addition to joining interest groups and organizations, it is also important to organize formal referendums to bring forward to your elected official.

Politics and global studies professor, Mark Ramirez, explained the different ways in which a voter can reach their elected official.

"With the increased growth in technology, all government officials can now be reached online," Ramirez said. "This allows voters the ability to question an issue in an efficient manner."

Here in the Valley, the race for Maricopa County Sheriff was closely monitored by various civil rights groups. Ramirez explained that the winner of the election would have a significant effect on the state. 

"The race between Arpiao and Penzone, was highly contested due to the fact of increased political pressure from young activist from various organizations," Ramirez said. 

In Arizona, Ramirez believes that the increased number of politically active groups in the state is due to immigration. When dealing with immigration, civil rights liberties are often questioned by the public. 

"The increased number of political organizations, has provided an alternative form of political participation in which an individual can express their political discontent," he said. 

Students searching for political organizations can find them on campus. Young DemocratsCollege Republicans and Sun Devils for Bernie are a few politically active groups that students can join. 

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