Local Government: More than Voting

Many people believe that their civic duty begins and ends with voting. However, there is a lot more to becoming a politically involved citizen and community member, and getting more involved can be exciting. What more can be done to interact with the Bozeman and Montana community? Joining a government board or committee is one way.

Government boards serve as advisory and administrative services for the county and city governments. Montana has many boards, councils and commissions people can be involved in. According to the Office of the Governor, these groups “are as varied as the issues we face, and its members as diverse as our population.” These are a lot easier to be involved in than one may think. For example, the Montana Arts Council has a vacancy for a “Public Representative,” and does not have any particular requirements beyond being a member of the Montana public with an interest in the arts. This is fairly common.

Most boards and councils may require a few members that have specific qualifications — like being a tribal representative, an attorney or from higher education — but many still require a few members that are simply “Public Representatives.” This could be anyone that cares enough to take part. J.P. Pomnichowski, a Montana State Senator, emphasizes this: “Whatever you are passionate about, go to that one to three hour monthly meeting — they will benefit from your perspective.” County Commissioner Steve White agreed: “It won’t be the most compelling night of your life … but every decision will matter to you.”

Maybe boards aren’t the best fit. Thankfully, there are many other ways to get involved.

For women, the League of Women Voters is a great opportunity to connect with a multi-generational community of politically active women. Their organization has multiple goals, such as “ensuring that all eligible voters — particularly those from traditionally underrepresented or underserved communities … have the opportunity and the information to exercise their right to vote,” and educating and engaging voters. The best part is that getting involved is as simple as filling out an online form for the national chapter, and one paper form for the local chapter. Also, the League of Women Voters is non-partisan.

There are also Election Judge positions currently open in the Bozeman area. Election Judges do get paid for their work, and ensure safe polling locations and fair elections for everyone. The training for the position is from April 18 to 22, so applications should be in soon. Eighteen to 25 year olds serve the smallest portion of election judge jobs, only 0.014 percent. It would be wonderful to raise that percentage a bit, while getting paid and adding a unique resume builder.

These are only a few of the wonderful political activism positions and organizations in Bozeman. Working with organizations like Forward Montana Foundation and on local campaigns are also great opportunities.

Sonja is a post-bac currently studying English literature. She is also an intern with Forward Montana Foundation. Their goal is to give voices to minority groups and to hear those voices speak out — particularly in local politics. They’d love to be approached with any questions or opinions on campus. Sonja can be reached at sonjaabenton@gmail.com.

For more information on Montana’s government and the services it offers, please visit: mt.gov/services/default.aspx or mt.gov

For more information on Montana Boards, Councils and Commissions, please visit: svc.mt.gov/gov/boards/

For more information on voting within Montana, please visit:

sos.mt.gov/Elections/Vote/index.asp or for information on your voter status, visit: app.mt.gov/voterinfo/

For more information on applying to be an Election Judge, please visit: sos.mt.gov/elections/Officials/documents/Serving-as-an-Election-Judge.pdf

For information on anything having to do with local government, please visit: mt.gov

For more information on the League of Women Voters, please visit: lwv.org , or the local chapter at lwvnet.org/mt/state/index.html