A few weeks ago I attended a community meeting as my home state of Ohio prepared for a vote-by-mail election after having postponed the originally scheduled election due to the coronavirus. While this particular election was important, the discussion at the meeting ultimately served as a wake-up call for November’s election. What we realized in talking about the likely level of low voter participation was the high level of confusion and general lack of awareness among voters with regard to when and how to vote. One of our members had pulled a public record of who had requested a vote-by-mail ballot. In doing so, she discovered that even mayors and prominent local elected officials had not yet requested a ballot. If they did not do so within the next 24-hours, it seemed likely that they would not be able to vote in time for their vote to be counted. Elected officials almost always vote, so this was particularly concerning. Perhaps, they were just like many of our friends who were either confused, unaware, or simply over-burdened with pandemic life when it came to voting.
It is too early to say what is going to happen in November. Today’s Wall Street Journal declared that Congress is “headed for a showdown over expanding voting by mail, with Americans set to converge on the polls when experts say the coronavirus could remain a health threat.” It is easy to imagine worst-case scenarios as pundits currently are. However, I want to invite each of you to also imagine a best-case scenario and to envision churches playing a leading role. What can your congregation do to help your members vote? Could you have a task force dedicated to formulating and executing a plan? Could you conduct a phone tree to not only encourage voting but to help people figure out how to vote?
Moreover, what could your congregation do to encourage people to not only vote but to vote their values? In 2018, Church of the Covenant in Boston invited those worshipping one Sunday to take the Creation Care Voter Pledge, a promise to consistently vote one’s values in caring for God's creation. During the offering, worshippers placed their Creation Care Voter Pledge Cards into the offering plate.
Get more ideas on how to organize your congregation for November’s election from the UCC’s Our Faith Our Vote website.
It is not too early to start planning and acting. We don’t want to place ourselves at risk of nightmare scenarios becoming a reality, especially when we have so much potential and power as members of the Body of Christ.
The Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt is the minister of environmental justice for the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ and author of the recently released “Cathedral on Fire: A Church Handbook for the Climate Crisis.”