By Mary Clark and Kent Olson, Economic Inequality Task Force
A generation ago, the political philosopher Michael Walzer wrote:
Citizens without money come to share a profound conviction that politics offers them no hope at all. This is a kind of practical knowledge that they learn from experience and pass on to their children. With it comes passivity, deference, and resentment. (Spheres of Justice)
It isn’t easy for people steeped in passivity, deference, and resentment to play a constructive role in self-governance. But many who wield great wealth and economic power prefer a system of “private governance” over democratic self-governance. They prefer to make the real decisions about how our country is governed by themselves, and they find it much easier to do so when large numbers of people fail to cast carefully-reasoned ballots. It’s far easier to manage elections when people don’t care to vote. And it’s far easier to manage elections when barriers are constructed which prevent those who would very much like to vote from being able to do so.
The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church state: The strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. You and members of your local church can become deputy registrars through the local county recorder’s office. After taking a two-hour class, you can assist the county in registering voters at community voting drives. New citizens are registered after becoming citizens and wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to do!
You can also access through the county recorder’s office an online guide called: “Run your own Voter Registration Drive.” This site has all the information you need to run a voter registration drive and information on getting the necessary forms. You do not need to become a deputy registrar if engaged with your church.
We need to acknowledge that the failure of people to register to vote doesn’t reflect some character defect. Many unregistered voters are reacting logically to the constraints placed upon them, or they’ve encountered barriers placed in their way. And they must contend with powerful forces that want to ensure that they won’t register and that they won’t vote.
Voting wasn’t a relevant concern for Jesus or the Hebrew prophets. The concept of democratic self-governance wasn’t even on their radar. But for 21st century Americans, voting is a gift—an inheritance—that we should honor. And we should do whatever we can to enable everyone to share in that inheritance. Helping people to register to vote is step one in fulfilling that responsibility.
Please consider running voter registration drive one Sunday a month at your church. Contact your pastors for their cooperation.
- If you would like to participate, please contact Christine Dyster, Director of Community Outreach at email@example.com.