Election season is in full swing, and this year it seems the stakes of the outcomes are higher than ever. Reminders to vote are flooding social media platforms, arriving in text messages and emails to registered voters and ranking among the top news stories every day. Even so, it is possible that many of the members of your faith community don't have the information, means or motivation to vote. While the endorsement of a particular party or candidate is ill-advised, as it may put your organization's tax exempt status at risk, there are still plenty of things you can do to encourage members to do their civic duty.
One reason many people list for why they don't vote is that there is too much information to process or they don't know very much about the people who are running or the voting process itself. As long as the church is not advising members on which candidates to choose, there are a lot of opportunities to make sure congregants are adequately informed:
- Hosting forums or town halls for all local candidates on the ballot
- Including information about polling sites in the bulletin or newsletter
- Posting information on the community board about voting rights
- Working with nonpartisan groups in your area to ensure that every member has access to a voting guide
The church has a responsibility to make sure its members have all that they need to make a positive impact on the world around them. Voting is one of the most basic things they can do to influence the policies that affect your city, state and country. Education helps them make more informed choices.
No matter how well informed your members are, if they don't actually have convenient means to cast their votes, they may become easily discouraged and decide it's not worth the effort. Make sure all members who qualify for absentee voting in your state are well aware of the requirements and procedures for doing so. If transportation is an issue, ask for volunteers who would be willing to offer free rides to polling locations to sign up for specific times when they are available. If no one is available or willing to provide this service, consider using the church van to pick people up and take them to the polls at designated times.
Most places also require a state-issued photo ID to vote. For most citizens, a driver’s license fulfills this requirement. If you have congregants who do not drive, however, they may need help figuring out what their identification options are.
Even with all the information they need and the means to get to the right polling location, many people still choose not to vote. Alternatively, they may intend to vote but run out of time to do so because they fail to make a plan. Guide members through the steps of making a voting plan by reminding them of all the factors they need to consider, such as the length of their commute and possible childcare needs. It doesn't matter whether they plan to vote early or on election day as long as they make a plan one way or the other.
You can encourage members to exercise their right to vote without aggressively pressuring them into it. Many voters appreciate the gentle reminders they receive when they make an online pledge to vote. You can also create a community event in which you all plan to meet at one of the early voting locations on a certain day and vote together. This option can be particularly appealing if your church has not been meeting in person, as it gives people a chance to see one another.
It's important for each citizen to exercise his or her right to vote. Providing nonpartisan information, access, and motivation can increase the likelihood that members will make it to the polls.