The mid-term election is officially underway. Early voting began across the state on Monday, October 20, and the first votes of 2014 have now been cast. Election Day – the final opportunity to vote – is Tuesday, November 4.
When Community Renewal Society launched a voter registration drive in this past summer, one of our community leaders declared “Of course, we should help people register to vote, but that’s not enough. We must also educate them about the importance of voting. If we don’t vote, we will never see the changes we all need.”
It’s easy to think of reasons not to vote. About 27 percent of people who did not vote in 2010 reported that they were too busy, and another 16 percent felt that their vote would not make a difference. A friend at church recently told me that she might not vote this year. She said, “Candidates never tell me what they stand for. They only tell me what’s wrong with the ‘other guy.’”
But, it’s also easy – and important – to identify reasons to vote. In our early national history, only white, male property owners could vote. Voting rights have expanded only because specific population groups, e.g., African Americans, Native Americans, and women, have organized and taken extraordinary risks to gain the right to vote for themselves and their communities. We must continue such heroic efforts. Clearly, the struggle for the right to vote is not over. Many states have enacted restrictions on voting rights in recent years, and voting rights have not yet been extended to many immigrants who live in our communities and contribute to the economy.
Voting also gives us an opportunity to examine our civic engagement in light of our faith commitments. We hear God’s call to justice for all people, and we believe that voting is one of the ways we bring our voices of faith into the public arena. As we cast our ballots, we know that, through voting, we can help to elect officials who will advocate for our neighbors – neighbors who need adequate funding for public education; neighbors who have felony records and need barriers to employment to be removed; and neighbors who will be lifted from poverty when the minimum wage is raised.
This will be a close election. Our votes can make a difference. We ask you to step up and talk with people in your church about the importance of voting.
We have developed a non-partisan Voter Education Packet of information about the upcoming election to assist you in your advocacy. Time is short, but there’s still time to talk with friends, family members, church friends, co-workers, and neighbors about voting this year.
Thank you for all you have done and will do to participate in this year’s election.