"We want to make sure people feel empowered when they go out to vote," said Sandy Sorenson, director of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries office in Washington, D.C.
Sorenson said with a slew of new voter ID laws and confusion on voter requirements, her office is working to help make sense of the issues through the Our Faith, Our Vote campaign (OFOV). This resource-rich effort is putting emphasis on helping people understand their rights as voters at the polls, and to help address any misinformation that may spread in their community.
What is the UCC's Our Faith, Our Vote campaign? It's a way to engage the progressive faith community in elections through voter registration drives and candidate forums that get to the heart of the issues we care about.
The Our Faith, Our Vote page on the UCC website is packed with a wide range of information and resources –– all of which are non-partisan, Sorensen said. "We're adding new resources frequently, so we're encouraging people to go back and visit the website often."
The Our Faith, Our Vote campaign began with the 2004 election cycle, and has continued with each Presidential and midterm election for the past eight years. Among the new features for the 2012 election are a series of webinars and blogs. The next webinar – a "best practices" discussion on how UCC members and congregations can engage in voter registration, education and get-out-the-vote – is at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29.
One of the underlying motivations for continuing the campaign, Sorensen said, is to build bridges across the ideological spectrum, encourage political leaders to work together toward common goals, and develop ways for all people and all communities in the country to move forward.
The webinars, which can be viewed online, will highlight topics on voting rights and election protection, key issues on the ballot, and a follow-up video centered on people of faith on the next steps after the election. The toolkits contain summaries of key issues, questions people should ask potential candidates, and how to have important political conversations within a UCC congregation.
Sorensen said the Our Faith, Our Vote campaign will continue emphasizing how to have hot-button discussions in a civilized manner, and help college students register to vote and obtain absentee ballots. There are also outlets for those too young to vote to remain active in the process.
"We need to find ways to build community and forums for discussion, and dialogue to learn, not attack each other," Sorensen said. "We have to counter the culture of attacks in sound bytes."