You may or may not like what is going on in politics today.
However, local leaders are reminding you that everyone has the power to impact politics. Not just by talking about politics or using social media, but by running for office and participating in the political process.
Feb. 9 will be the last day Indiana residents can file to run as candidates in the Democratic and Republican primary elections.
Primary elections are held May 8. General elections will follow on Nov. 6. On the ballot this year are U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, county offices and slots for elected township and precinct positions.
Although only one candidate has filed in most county races, some competitive campaigns have emerged, such as the race for Marion County Sherriff. William “Bill” Benjamin and Kerry Forrestal are running for the Democratic nomination, as Jim Grimes and Tom Vaughn will go head-to-head for the Republican nomination.
Leaders in both parties are united in their call for people, including African-Americans, to first register to vote, then to sign up as candidates for office or as precinct volunteers.
“We strongly encourage people to participate in the process,” said Peter Luster, executive director of the Marion County Democratic Party. “The more the merrier because we will need everything we can to win, not only this year but in 2019 and 2020.”
Luster said concerns over recent decisions by President Donald Trump and Congress have sparked more activism among local Democrats who feel the need to take action.
“People are filing everyday,” Luster said. “They are motivated and energized by what they see going on in Washington. We’re seeing a lot of energy out in the neighborhoods of the community. Going from President Obama to the situation we have now is waking people up and getting them fired up.”
Luster noted that anyone who needs help finding out what precinct they live in and other information can contact the Marion County Democratic Party.
State Sen. James Merritt, chairman of the Marion County Republican Party, said the organization is looking forward to the party’s slating convention this Saturday. Precinct leaders will have an opportunity to hear from potential candidates for local offices.
However, in addition to recruiting candidates for office, Merritt said the party’s first priority is to register voters and encourage everyone to vote.
“That is the first box to check,” Merritt said. “The second box to check is to encourage people to work on Election Day in a precinct or becoming a precinct committeeman.”
The Marion County Democratic Party already has a diverse set of officeholders and candidates. However, Merritt stated that building a diverse slate of candidates that includes people of color and women is also important to Republicans.
“We’re always looking to broaden the base and foundation of our party,” he said. “We believe that we can attract people from every corner of Marion County. You just have to have sensitivity toward all, and I think our policies mirror that.”
As a model, Merritt noted that the majority of statewide office holders are Republican women along with Attorney General Curtis Hill, an African American.
As the third largest political party in the country and the state, the Libertarian Party has had candidates on the ballot in the general election for two decades. However, Libertarians do not run in the primary and candidates have until the general election filing deadline of July 3 to file with that party.
Citizens who want to run as independent or minor party candidates for federal, state or local office in the general election must collect signatures of registered voters within their district that is at least two percent of the total votes cast in the 2014 Secretary of State race.
Anyone who needs assistance in filing as a candidate, volunteering or simply obtaining their voting information can call the political party of their choice, their county clerk’s office or the Indiana Secretary of State’s election division.
Indianapolis resident Byron Ratcliffe believes it is important for people to not just discuss politics, but to get involved with the political process.
“If you’re involved you can stay on top of what’s going on,” said Ratcliffe, criminal justice chair for the Indiana Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
For decades, the Indianapolis branch of the NAACP has led voter registration drives and presented forums where residents can see candidates up close.
“We want to bring you out and let you meet the candidates and hear what they have to say,” Ratcliffe said.
Ratcliffe said he often hears people express complaints and concerns about President Trump, who delivered his annual State of the Union address this week. Ratcliffe listens to those opinions, but also responds with an important question: did you vote?
“If you don’t vote, then you can’t complain,” Ratcliffe said. “All you can do is be mad at you. You can’t be mad at the process because it’s already there.”
He encourages voters to participate in the primary election, where parties choose candidates, and not wait until the general election to cast their vote. This way, Ratcliffe said, voters get to select the candidates that go forward.