Being a rural advocate at home, in the Capitol

Small Towns

By Trenton Buhr, former staff member

“The Salvation of the State is the Watchfulness of the Citizen,” reads an inscription over the main entrance to the Nebraska state Capitol in Lincoln.

Democracy needs input from citizens to thrive, but figuring out how to share your voice and have an impact on government can be challenging. Luckily, constituents can make a difference in several ways.

Whether you are interested in federal, state, or local policy, you can share your views by interacting directly with elected officials by writing, calling, or visiting your representatives. While testifying in person is the most effective way to ensure your voice is heard, we understand not everyone is comfortable in that setting. Other options include writing letters to the editor or sharing information on social media.

Traveling to the Capitol or to a representative’s office can be difficult for rural residents, and the global COVID-19 pandemic has created additional barriers. The good news is that most advocacy can take place remotely.

However you choose to engage with your representatives, providing an authentic constituent voice is important while making sure to keep your message simple, civil, and focused. The audience needs to know who you are, why the issue matters to you, and what action you want taken. In the case of legislation, this means urging the representative to vote yes or no on a specific proposal.

Whatever your medium, staying focused on the topic at hand is important. Any policy proposal has important history and context, but limited time and space means you can only go into so much detail or risk missing your main point. Commenting on an issue should also be timely. Try to speak to representatives or place your story in the media at a key moment, such as before a hearing or floor debate.

The Center for Rural Affairs is here to help you keep track of issues important to you, find opportunities for you to advocate, and craft your message. If you haven’t already, take a look at our current legislative priorities and keep track of our legislative updates to know what proposals are affecting rural areas. You can also contact us and let us know you want to help—I promise we will be glad to hear from you.

Feature photo: Lisa Eisenmenger, of West Point, Nebraska, testifies during the LB 1116 hearing during the 2020 Nebraska Legislative session. She also met with Sen. Ben Hansen, District 16, who represents Burt, Cuming, and Washington counties.  |  Photo by Teresa Hoffman