Panel looks at 'Democracy Beyond the Ballot Box'

Beyond the Ballot Box at Ripon College on March 6, 2018 (WLUK/Mike Moon)

RIPON (WLUK) -- It's often said that casting your ballot on election day is your civic duty and while that may be true, a program at Ripon College is asking students to think outside the ballot box.

When it comes to the current state of politics, some people will tell you, it's not very positive.

"I think a lot of our politics today is absolutely cynical. There's a thought that nothing really can be done, or everything that can be done is done, history's over in some way," explained Steven Miller an adjunct research scholar at Ripon College.

A panel discussion at Ripon College Tuesday tried to open people's eyes to what politics can be on an individual level. It was called "Democracy Beyond the Ballot Box."

It featured speakers who have worked at the grassroots level to make changes in their own communities.

"Not voting for a whole political platform, one candidate, but saying, 'no, I care about this issue right here,' and then go and working on just that," Miller told FOX 11 News.

"Figuring out ways that we can pressure our elected leaders to do our will is one of the things that we think is really important," added Christine Darr, an assistant professor of Christian ethics at the University of Dubuque.

For example, Darr and Cristoffer Lammer-Heindel have worked together in Dubuqe, Iowa to push for municipal broadband internet in their city.

"We're building grassroots support so that we can demonstrate to our elected leaders on the city council that we have, you know, 700 people who are interest in this, now do it," explained Lammer-Heindel, who is an assistant professor of philosophy at Loras College.

Community Organizer Nicholas Smaligo discussed his efforts in Illinois to help build community gardens and projects like tool exchanges.

"Anybody can do it. Find the people that feel a similar, have a similar perception of the problems and begin to organize around solving those problems to begin with," he told us.

The speakers said no matter where you stand on the political aisle, you can get involved beyond casting a ballot.

"I think the more people that we get engaged, the more voices and perspectives listening to each other, and speaking with each other, trying to figure out what's best for our communities, the better," Darr explained.

Ripon College's "Center for People and Politics" sponsored today's panel. There will be a similar event on 'Women and Politics" on March 21st.

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