Know Your Government

KNOW YOUR GOVERNMENT

MOSES encourages all people from all walks of life to advocate for the needs of their communities, and the best way to do this is through frequent contact with – and often, pressure on – public officials.

The first step to active civic participation is to know your government. We have compiled a variety of resources to help you identify and contact the elected officials that serve your area.

Below, you will find information on the various levels of government that affect you. We hope this page will help make it easier for you to find your civic voice and make it heard. Contact your elected officials – your letters, phone calls and emails make a difference!

MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT

Individual cities and towns are usually led by a mayor, and governed by a city counciltown counciltown board or board of alderman. Each city or town elects its own mayor and city council members. If you are concerned about an issue or policy that primarily affects residents of your town, you should contact your mayor and your city council representative(s).For help contacting your municipal government, please feel free to contact us.

Detroit City Government

Detroit’s city government is led by a Mayor and City Council.

The current Mayor of Detroit is democrat Mike Duggan. Mayors are elected every four years, and have no term limits. Contact information for the Mayor’s office can be located here.

As of 2013, Detroit City Council consists of seven (7) members elected by district, and two (2) members elected at-large (by the whole city). The city has been divided into seven districts, each with its own representative. Visit the Detroit District Map to locate your district. For information about how to contact your City Council representative, please visit the Detroit City Council Website.

STATE OF MICHIGAN GOVERNMENT

The State of Michigan’s offices are located in our State Capitol, Lansing. Just like the federal government, the State of Michigan has three branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. The State of Michigan’s website offers many helpful resources and guides to help you understand your home State’s government. For starters, you may wish to review the Citizen’s Guide to State Government. This comprehensive guide explains the structure of Michigan’s government, and offers tools and advice for being an active Michigan citizen.

  • The Executive Branch

    consists of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and a wide variety of departments, ranging from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, to the Department of Community Health, to the Department of Education and many others. Depending on the nature of your concern, you may wish to contact a particular State department. A full list of State of Michigan Departments, including links to their respective websites, can be found here.
    • Michigan State Governor: Our current Governor is republican Rick Snyder. Governors are elected every four years, and each Governor may serve up to two, four-year terms. Contact information for our Governor can be found here.
  • The Legislative Branch, or legislature

    is where law making happens. The Michigan legislature is “bicameral,” meaning that it consists of two parts: the Michigan State Senate and the Michigan State House of Representatives. For information about how ideas become laws, please visit How Does a Bill Become a Law? here. If you are concerned about a policy issue that affects Michigan residents across the State, you should contact your Senator and Representative. These are elected officials that have been voted into office by members of your community. They are responsible for representing your interests when laws are being made.
    • Michigan State Senate: Michigan has 38 Senate Districts, each representing a specific geographic area. Senators are elected at the same time as the Governor, on even-numbered years, to four-year terms. Each Senator may serve up to two, four-year terms. You can find your district, Senator, and Senator contact information by typing in your address here.
    • Michigan State House of Representatives: There are 110 Michigan State Representatives. Representatives are elected in even-numbered years to two-year terms. Representatives may serve a maximum of three terms. You can find your district, Representative, and Representative contact information by typing in your address here.
  • The Judicial Branch

    is responsible for Michigan’s court system. The Michigan Supreme Court is the highest court in the State, and decides cases that have come up from the lower courts through the appeals system.

The Michigan Supreme Court consists of seven justices: the chief justice and six associate justices. The justices are elected to serve eight-year terms, and one justice is selected by the court as chief justice every two years. Justices are nominated by political parties, and elected on a nonpartisan ballot (a ballot that is not affiliated with a certain party).

The structure of the court system can be difficult to understand, even for educated adults. This curriculum about the Michigan State court system, created for schoolchildren, offers a helpful, simplified explanation of how the courts work. It can be used as a helpful resource for adults, too!

UNITED STATES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

The United States government is based in our nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C. Like the Michigan State government, it consists of an Executive Branch, a Legislative Branch, and a Judicial Branch. More information on the structure of the United States government can be found here.

  • The President of the United States is the head of the Executive Branch. The President is elected every four years, and may serve up to two four-year terms. All United States citizens aged 18 or older may vote in the presidential election. However, who becomes President is ultimately dependent on a combination of the popular vote results and the Electoral College results. For an explanation of the Electoral College, please visit this page of the National Archives website. You can also view this YouTube video called “Electing a US President in Plain English” for a simple overview of our electoral process.
  • The Executive Branch of the federal government includes dozens of federal government agencies, each devoted to a specific issue or set of issues. A complete alphabetical index of government agencies may be found here.
  • The bicameral (two-part) Legislative Branch of the federal government consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Together, these legislative bodies are referred to as Congress, which is responsible for making national laws.
    • United States Senate: There are 100 U.S. Senators – two for every state. Senators are elected by residents of their home states, whose interests they are expected to represent. They are elected to six-year terms, with no term limits. Senators’ terms are staggered, so that about one-third of the Senate is up for re-election every two years. A list of current Senators (organized by state) and their contact information can be found here.
    • United States House of Representatives: There are 435 individuals in the United States House of Representatives, divided among the states in proportion to their total population. Representatives are elected to two-year terms by residents of their geographical districts. To find your U.S. Representative and his or her contact information, enter your zip code into this website.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the country, and constitutes the Judicial Branch of the federal government. Supreme Court justices are nominated by the President, and confirmed by the Senate. They retain their positions for life, or until they choose to retire. Since justices do not have to run or campaign for re-election, they are thought to be insulated from political pressure when deciding cases. However, many Supreme Court justices throughout history have been closely aligned with the political party of the President who nominated them. Supreme Court decisions are very important, because they set standards, or “precedents,” for future decisions regarding similar cases.
  • For more information about the United States Supreme Court, including a docket of current cases, you may visit www.supremecourt.gov. Contact information for the Supreme Court justices can be located here.

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