“Do you realize the very act of registering to vote or holding up a voter registration card put lives in danger for men and women living in the South in the early sixties?” our co-worker, Jim, asked. Heads nodded. Yes, on some level, we knew that, but his words recently reminded us that we should never take for granted the hard-earned right to vote.
The passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, following the historic Selma march in Alabama, was one of the great victories of the Civil Rights Movement and, after almost 50 years, it remains one of the longest lasting achievements of that period. In recent years, there have been several attempts to weaken the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, demonstrating that the law still has power to make a difference in election cycles.
It’s up to us to keep growing that power. Isaiah proclaims, "Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet.” (Isaiah 58:1) Your voice and your efforts are needed. Sign up now to help register new voters.
Many churches and other houses of worship see voting as a means of extending God’s justice, mercy, and peace. Clergy and lay leaders encourage congregational members to register to vote and then go to the polls on local, state, and national election days. Some congregations go a step further by launching voter registration drives and holding candidates forums. All of these activities are appropriate for churches and do not violate their IRS tax-exempt status as long as they are non-partisan and do not endorse a particular candidate or political party. Instead, voter registration and education events can discuss issues important to our communities, such as, poverty, criminal justice, and minimum wage.
Community Renewal Society, along with other community organizations in Chicago, have embarked on a substantial voter registration drive to register 50,000 new voters before the general election on November 4, 2014. Our congregational volunteers and FORCE (Fighting to Overcome Records and Create Equality) Project leaders are making good progress in their churches and neighborhoods registering new voters, many of whom have criminal records. Hundreds of new voters are now registered, thanks to our volunteers and FORCE voter registration fellows. That’s good news!
However, there’s more work to do and only 27 days left to file new voter registrations.
Many formerly incarcerated individuals assume they cannot participate in the electoral process after they are released from prison. Your help is needed to let individuals with records know that they can exercise their right to vote again.
Register now to join us on one of our community canvasses. When you sign up, we’ll provide materials, training, and work partners for you. You’ll meet some interesting neighbors, have some great conversations, and, more importantly, you’ll help people lift up their voices as they register to vote in the November election.
As we learned from the Civil Rights Movement, united and organized people can achieve life changing results. Every voter, every vote, and every election matters. Join us to build our power and raise our voices together for justice.