Pennsylvanians frustrated with a state legislature so dysfunctional it can't pass a bill that would lock guns away from kids but denied voters a chance to control who represents them can send a powerful message this November. They can run for office.

Aug. 1 is the deadline for independent candidates to file nominating petitions, and there are plenty of important issues to campaign on.

Surely, the legislature can use some new blood, especially since both political parties failed to make progress on significant issues before the session's break. They didn't pass bills to stop violent domestic abusers from having easy access to their guns.  When it came to school funding, they added money but didn't fix historic inequities. They may brag, on the campaign trail, that they didn't raise taxes this year, but they didn't fix them either. Property owners continue to pick up an increasing share of the state's responsibility to fund education.

But legislators' most egregious antics came as both Republicans, who control the legislature, and Democrats slow-walked redistricting reform until the clock ran out.  In the final days, both parties larded up redistricting bills with so many amendments, the bills were impossible to pass. The deadline for putting a constitutional question on the ballot passed July 6.

Voters who care about any of those issues as well as the environment, health-care reform, poverty and more should think about running for office. It's a great way to participate in democracy — from the front lines.  Those unable to run should consider supporting an independent.

All 203 House seats and half of the 50 Senate seats are up for election as is the governor and lieutenant governor.

Earlier this year, the state settled a lawsuit, the outcome of which reduced the number of required signatures for independent or third-party candidates to get on the ballot for statewide offices.

That can be 300 to 712 signatures from registered voters residing in a district for a state House seat and 734 to 1,561 for a state Senate seat. For the executive-minded, the governor's job requires 5,000 signatures and lieutenant governor, 2,500.

Some of these seats might even be an easy win – Democratic Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, of West Philadelphia, is facing trial on corruption charges and doesn't have an opponent. An independent candidate could ask: How can Brown possibly give her full attention to her responsibilities in the Statehouse when she's fighting for her freedom in the courthouse? Philadelphia Democratic Sens. Christine Tartaglione and Anthony Williams are running unopposed. If Republicans are too weak to give voters a choice, an independent should go for it.

Voter interest in public policy has increased since President Trump's election, with scores of well-attended protests across Pennsylvania for everything from the civil rights of minorities and women to the right not to be shot in school or on the street.

With so much energy in the electorate, maybe this could be the year of the independent.  There's one way to find out.