Our Faith/Our Vote is a campaign organized by the United Church of Christ that explores how congregations can participate in the electoral process through faithful, nonpartisan engagement.
One of the many resources and initiatives of this campaign has been a webinar series. Every week, members of the church host “Tuesdays for Nurture,” where they “faithfully focus on education for the people of God.”
Last Tuesday, Stacey Abrams and Rev. Leah D. Daughtry came together over a zoom call to discuss voter registration, education, and mobilization. As the United States gets closer to the 2020 presidential election, engaging in conversations about electoral politics and the role the church must play to ensure every voice is heard seems imperative.
The webinar’s moderator, Rev. Traci Blackmon, began by reminding the audience of some of the most recent attacks on racial equity and voting rights in the past decade.
Blackmon mentioned the consequences of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act in 2013, which include the strategic closing of polling stations in black neighborhoods, the purging of voting rolls with no data-driven evidence of voter fraud, last month’s Georgia’s primary elections, and the earlier gubernatorial race in Georgia.
For her part, Abrams connected the previous points to a bigger context of voter suppression in the 21st century that dates back to 2005 and 2006, when Indiana and Georgia passed laws to allow for restrictive voter IDs.
Rev. Daughtry highlighted an even longer, more complicated history of voter suppression in the U.S. as she added that “voter suppression really was written into the constitution of the United States–when only white men could vote…and we’ve been amending the process ever since.”
Early on during the event, Abrams defined the three main criteria to evaluate voter suppression: Can you register and stay on the rolls? Can you cast your ballot? And does your vote get counted?
With these questions in mind, the impact of COVID-19 on voting rights became the center of the conversation.
The increase of unemployed and unhoused people as a result of this disastrous pandemic could have a negative influence on the number of citizens that will be able to vote by mail.
In an attempt to reduce such limitations, Rev. Blackmon asked whether or not churches could prepare to serve as addresses for folks who, unfortunately, won’t have permanent addresses. “Depends on the state. Make sure you know the law, but it is a good solution,” answered Abrams.
Beyond this idea, how do support from religious institutions and communities look like for the 2020 presidential election? Church community members usually organize carpool mobilizations to take voters to polling stations. Given the coronavirus crisis, churches and pastors may walk people through requesting, filling out, and sending absentee ballots over zoom meetings instead.
These are only a few of the many ways discussed in yesterday’s webinar for communities of faith to support the fight against voter suppression. As trusted community partners, religious leaders are ready to encourage neighborhoods to “engage their faith with their vote.”