A special message about voting from Bishop Sandra

By Sandra Steiner Ball

It has long been my practice to rarely sign on to group letters or petitions. I prefer to write communications that better reflect my thought and tone. Recently, several communications have turned to the subject of voting against the backdrop of the COVID pandemic and racism. It is important to note, Churches are prohibited from partisan political activity by U.S. tax law. However, we the Church, should encourage citizens to register to vote and to exercise their vote.

In care for all people of all ages, races, cultures, economic and educational status; and in our work for justice for all people, we are called to help give guidance, and to work for procedures and policy that keep the voting process, including voter registration, available, secure, and safe for all citizens of voting age, whether Republican, Democrat, Independent or member of another political party. The rough places should be made plain so that all can exercise their right, gift, and duty to vote.

Paragraph 164 of The 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline describes the importance of voting.

Political Responsibility: “The strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust . . .” Paragraph 164B

Basic Freedoms and Human Rights: “We hold governments responsible for the protection of the rights of the people to free and fair elections . . . The form and the leaders of all governments should be determined by exercise of the right to vote guaranteed to all adult citizens.” Paragraph 164A

These paragraphs speak to important principles to remember in these chaotic times, because our history tells us that there were citizens – women, black and brown people, and differently abled persons, who were denied the ability and right to vote in the past. We must work to keep this unjust history from repeating itself.

First, the strength of our system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. Exercise your right to vote and encourage others to do the same because it is a gift and a responsibility. Study the issues, get to know the candidates, and let your vote be an expression of your faith commitment.

Second, It is especially important, in these chaotic times, to pay attention to how our government and leaders are protecting the rights of all citizens for free and fair elections no matter race, culture, socio-economic or educational status, political party, stance, or gender. We must work to eliminate obstructions to voter registration, potential blocks to any citizen’s ability to be able to cast a ballot, and investigate statements and actions that cast doubt on and undermine confidence that ballots will be accurately counted. We must persuade government leaders and officials to provide whatever is needed to support the broadest possible participation not only in November’s elections, but all elections.

We should encourage all citizens to register to vote, we should encourage all people to exercise their gift, right, and responsibility to vote, and we should voice our expectations that our governments promote, defend, and guarantee the right of all citizens to choose leaders in free and fair elections. Additionally, we should work to ensure not only each citizen’s right to vote, but to respect the results of the vote once ballots are counted. This is how democracy truly works for the people by the people.

United Methodist citizens and all citizens of these United States, please exercise your right, gift, and duty to vote.

In closing I share this quote: “October 6, 1774 I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1) To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy; 2) to speak no evil of the person they voted against; and 3) to take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.” – John Wesley