When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked rule, the people groan. -Proverbs 29:2 (NRSV)
With one week to go before Election Day, we find ourselves again facing choices and consequences that seem to extend beyond the ordinary. Across the political spectrum, we fear that the world we know will change beyond our recognition. Or we fear that the change our country desperately needs will never come. But our faith is not founded on fear. Rather, it is a faith of hope and of action. And the action that all of us need to take on Election Day is to enter our polling place, confront the choices before us, and vote for those candidates and those initiatives that will best serve God’s people on earth. And yet, many will not head to the polls on Tuesday. Some people will choose to stay home, even as others will face what seem to be insurmountable barriers to casting their vote.
Voting is a civic duty, a sacred responsibility, and a natural extension of faithful action. Even when our problems seem too big to confront and our one vote seems too small to make a difference, it is precisely then that our responsibility is greatest. Those who represent us in government can and will make decisions with far-reaching implications for all people living in the United States, and even the world, particularly those who are most vulnerable.
God has called us into this world to live out God’s call to be faithful, to provide compassion, and to seek justice for all God’s children on this earth. God has given to us the tools to answer this call. By serving those who are vulnerable, feeding those who are hungry, housing those who are homeless, and standing with those whose voices are not heard, we can answer this call. Choosing not to vote is to turn away from that call. Our vote is our voice and failing to use that voice is equal to silence.
To be sure, many people, especially people of color, people who do not speak or read English, people facing economic insecurity, people who are gender non-conforming, and people with disabilities will encounter barriers to voting on Tuesday. The systemic campaign to disenfranchise minority groups in the United States has been intentional and insidious. In 2013, the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder removed key portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and Congress has yet to act to replace the old policy with new language that will pass constitutional muster. Many states now also require a government-issued ID to be presented at the polls, essentially amounting to a poll tax.
With these impediments facing our sisters and brothers who desire to head to the polls and exercise their rights, it is incumbent on those who can vote freely and easily to do so and to support those requiring assistance. Many polling places need volunteers and non-partisan poll watchers. While it might be too late to sign up for such a duty, check on your neighbors and members of your church. Offer rides to the polls for those who don’t have transportation. Offer babysitting for the parents who need support with their kids. Offer support and compassion for those who wait in long lines, who sacrifice much needed income by taking time off work to exercise their right to vote.
Your vote is your voice – don’t give it up!
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS (and of those around you)! You Have the Right to…
- Receive a Ballot
If you are a registered voter, but your name is not on the rolls, you have the right to request a provisional ballot.
- Use an Accessible Polling Place
If you are a person with physical disabilities and/or in need of language translation, you must be provided with accommodations and assistance in voting.
- Review a Sample Ballot Before Voting
If you want to see a sample ballot in order to help you vote properly, you are entitled to do so.
- Cast a Vote As Long As You Arrive Before the Poll Closes
If you are in line before the polls close, you are entitled to vote, no matter how long it may take.
- Have Your Vote Count
If you fail to vote in some of the races on the ballot or if there is an error on your ballot and you fill out a provisional ballot instead, your vote must still be counted.
If you experience or witness voter disenfranchisement, call: 1-866-OUR-VOTE or for Spanish language services, 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA
To find out more about voting rights or to find links to information specific to your state, visit the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights or Rock the Vote
For Presbyterian resources on voting, please visit our blog.