Why Civics Matters: Who is Involved?

by Sydney Boyd, editor & content producer

Civic engagement itself takes many forms across communities, and one of the most recognizable acts of civic engagement is voting. The right to vote has historically fallen along lines of identity. Take the Voting Rights Act of 1965, for instance, which prohibited discrimination in voting based on race—that’s only been in place for 56 years of our country’s history. Women also make up a huge portion of the population who were not always free to vote. Less straightforward are politics around LGBTQ+ communities or those discouraged or prohibited from voting because of their immigration status. 

But voting is just one way to get involved in what’s happening in your community—those under 18 can tell you that. America’s youth may not be able to vote yet, but they’re no less part of a community and have found ways to center their voices in debates over voting rights. This is true, too, of those experiencing incarceration who continue to invest in their communities through all kinds of educational and conversational outreach. There are lots of ways we define ourselves in relationship to others—our civic voices are one of them, and we have a responsibility both to speak and listen.

This is the second blog in a series that reflects on civic engagement—what it means, who it involves (this post), and what location has do with it all. This series draws from the work councils did in fall of 2020 and spring of 2021 as part of “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation,” an initiative administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and generously supported by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Explore this topic through humanities councils’ programs in:

Alabama: Black Suffragist in the Jim Crow South

Arizona: A Discussion of Voting Rights Today

California: A Journey to Freedom

Hawai’i: Democracy Equality and Justice in Hawai’i

Louisiana: Who Gets to Vote?

Maryland: Maryland Voices: Hopeful for the Future

Nebraska: The Voting Rights Act: Triumphs, Challenges & Possibilities

Nevada: Why It Matters – Native Voting in Nevada

Oklahoma: Citizen 2020

South Dakota: Ideas that Inspired the Early Suffragists

Washington: Democracy’s Ghosts – Fear and Hope