By Tessa Comnick, ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow
I was the youngest person by maybe 30 years sitting in a dilapidated American Legion hall at 5 a.m. preparing to start a 15-hour shift at my local polling station. The gentleman next to me warned that we’d probably have some intermittent slow periods. “We’re expecting we’ll get more people than last year, though,” he told me with some pride.
“More people” turned out to be over double the voters on Nov. 6, 2018 than in the previous year. In Lorain County, Ohio, 26.80%* of those eligible voted in November 2017—in November 2018, we hit 54.15%.** This is a trend I am hopeful we will continue to see.
The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP), part of the ELCA Advocacy network, has been active in encouraging congregations through its Get Out the Vote (GOTV) Faithful Citizen Civic Engagement Program. Regional trainings teach effective nonpartisan civic engagement in order to prepare members and places of worship to raise their voices and promote 100% voting participation in their communities. And I have reason to hope for a continued rising voting trend— twice as many people turned out for VICPP’s first GOTV event than registered.
I am a firm believer that everyone eligible should vote in this country, but why should faith communities be involved? For me, our faith equals love. In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus commands us to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. “There is no commandment greater than these,” Jesus teaches. To love God means to love all, every one of us.
The people we vote for are people elected to represent us all: the rich, the poor, the famous, the stranger, the healthy, the sick, the believer, the non-believer—all of us. Our input can help promote in our government our values of love, care, and protection. No matter what beliefs (or lack thereof) individuals in this country follow, we all deserve to be protected, we all deserve to be happy, and we all deserve to be healthy, just as we would want for ourselves.
Don’t miss your state’s deadline – register to vote. Then, whether by mail or at your own local polling location, get out the vote!
*Lorain County Board of Elections, “2017 General Election Information,” loraincountyelections.com, accessed September 26, 2019, https://www.loraincountyelections.com/2017general
**Lorain County Board of Elections, “2018 General Election Information,” loraincountyelections.com, accessed September 26, 2019, https://www.loraincountyelections.com/2018-general-election