Serving our government seems a mostly forgotten duty for many U.S. citizens. With our busy lifestyles afforded by our fundamental freedoms, we too often see civic duties as burdens meant only for those with more time. Students learn civic duties in high school and college, but we could use reminders of what our responsibilities are as U.S. citizens. Examples of duties include registering to vote, learning about candidates, voting, responding to a court summons and paying taxes on time.
Exercising Voting Rights
The right to vote, also referred to as suffrage, is a right that all U.S. citizens over age 18 share today, as opposed to when only white male landowners held this powerful privilege. The women's suffrage movement lasted almost 100 years before women were finally allowed to vote in an election. Even after African American men obtained the right to vote in 1870, discriminatory procedures kept many from voting until the 1965 Voting Rights Act. With every adult's voice allowed to be heard, everything from presidential elections to local issue campaigns can be decided. Voting in itself is important, but even more important is voting wisely. Voting not only asks for the check of a box, but for your thoughtful choice about the well-being of your community and country. Despite the importance of voting in a democracy, only 56 percent of voters turned out in the 2016 presidential election, which was up a little from 2012, according to the Pew Research Center.
Serving on a Jury
Each judicial districts randomly summons residents of that municipality to report to jury duty. Based on your answers to Juror Qualifications form, you may be required to appear for jury duty to hear the facts of a criminal or civil case. When called to serve on a jury, it may be an inconvenience, but it is important to keep in mind that you are helping your peers by doing so. Consider the possibility that you may someday find yourself a defendant and in need of fair, impartial, thoughtful citizens to help decide your fate; you may reconsider the value of citizen participation.
Signing a Petition
You may see petition gatherers at your library entrance, near your local government center, or even at a local festival. These clipboard holders are observing their civic duty by supporting a belief and asking you to give their cause a chance to be heard on an upcoming voting ballot. By signing a petition, you are not setting anything in stone or laying down your values, but you are giving voice to an issue and allowing the wheels of the democratic process to move forward. Signatures on petitions are typically presented to elected officials in hopes of swaying their opinion and help with an issue such as clean air initiatives.
Filing and Paying Taxes
April 15 is the day of reckoning for those who earn income. Every year employers are required to provide workers with a the Internal Revenue Service W-2 form reporting wages earned and taxes withheld. Taxpayers use the W-2 and other financial data to file their annual income tax forms. It is one of our more distressing civic duties to many citizens because it often results in paying additional money to the IRS. However, local, state and federal tax revenue funds many essential programs and services that enhance quality of life.
Fulfilling Civic Duties by Volunteering
Civic involvement includes doing what you can to make a positive difference in your community. Volunteering to support a cause or issue close to your heart or helping at voting polls are just a couple ways to be a dutiful citizen. Volunteer options are vast and varied. Find a problem that you can help to solve. For example, you could be a volunteer at a homeless shelter, food bank, school or animal rescue organization.