Elections matter – local, state or national, in a presidential election year or not. The outcomes of elections influence the policies that impact our daily lives – be it health care, education, transportation, student loan debt, clean water, and much more. Election Day 2019 is reminder that a pivotal presidential election year is right around the corner. The stakes are even higher for November 3, 2020. The challenges before our communities, our nation, and our world are immense.
In fact, the very health of our democratic process is under threat. The United Church of Christ recently joined a host of interfaith partners in signing the Faithful Democracy Voters Covenant. The covenant names the multiple threats to voting rights and a fair democratic process, but also lifts up our call to be faithful and engaged nonetheless:
Our nation is segmented into those who are “worthy” of a voice in our political system and those who are not. Democratic systems are used to perpetuate systemic racism and silence the voices of the marginalized, particularly poor people and people of color. Our democratic processes have been corrupted at every level: through voter suppression and intimidation; outsized financial contributions from anonymous donors and corporate interests; gerrymandering; and foreign actors hijacking the public discourse in bad faith. ... The faith community holds firm to our trust in the spirit of self-governance and the strength of our aspirational founding principles. However, we move into the election season with concerns about the wellbeing of our national body politic.
The challenges are indeed great. After the Shelby v. Holder 2013 Supreme Court demolishing key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, we enter the 2020 election season with fewer voting protections than we had in 1965. Across the country we’re seeing restrictive voter ID and accessibility provisions being codified that only serve to narrow the accessibility of voting to vulnerable populations. Furthermore, the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowing for vast amounts of dark corporate money to flood campaigns favors corporate interests over the common good.
Despite the challenges, it still matters that we vote and that we continue to protect the right of others to vote. That is not the idealist in me talking. It is the part of me that knows no single thing we do brings about change, and that’s not a reason not to do it. We do it because if we don’t show up, other interests will fill the void. As author and columnist William Rivers Pitt notes in an essay entitled The Ballot or the Bullet, “Henry David Thoreau argued for non-participation in a broken system, but a system that has been broken by non-participation requires a different remedy.”
Our vote is our voice – it is an important way to participate in the common good and to help shape policy. Faith voices are essential and unique in the electoral process. The UCC Our Faith, Our Vote, Our Voice campaign offers resources to help congregations engage in the electoral process in a nonpartisan way, through voter education, issue education, and voter empowerment/mobilization: www.ourfaithourvote.org. We look forward to working with you in the coming election season to lift up our UCC vision of a just and compassionate world for all.
Sandy Sorensen is the Director of the Washington D.C. Office, UCC