People in Pennsylvania finally get to vote in the Presidential primary elections on Tuesday, April 26. Voters in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Rhode Island will also be voting that day.
By Tuesday, April 26, voters in thirty-eight states will already have voted in their Presidential primary elections. And those voters may already have pushed one or another of the Presidential candidates over the top with regard to the number of delegates needed to with the Democratic or Republican nomination.
If that happens, why would you bother to vote?
Here are three reasons!
1. First, the fifth principle of our Unitarian Universalist covenant says that we promise to affirm and promote the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large. That could mean many things: promoting a candidate whose values and vision you support; working against gerrymandering; opposing the Citizens United decision; working against voter suppression tactics. But first and foremost, our fifth principle calls us to vote! So mark your calendar for Tuesday, April 26. Tell yourself that it is your religious duty to vote!
2. Second, the Presidential primary elections are not the only elections on the ballot. In 2016, we will be voting for our U.S. Senator, our U.S. Representatives, our state senators, our state representatives, and many others. What happens in these elections, even the most local elections, can have significant consequences. Recently my older daughter Rachel attended a Borough Council meeting in Penn Hills. The issue was whether or not to approve a junkyard in the old East Hills shopping area. This area is part of the watershed of Nine Mile Run – a stream near our home that Rachel has enjoyed since she was a small child. She was concerned that runoff from the junkyard would send pollution into Nine Mile Run. But what really dismayed her was the spectacle of a mostly African-American assembly of citizens vociferously protesting the junkyard project before a mostly white and apparently unsympathetic Borough Council. This event really opened her eyes about the importance of having elected officials who truly understand and represent the interests of the people they serve.
3. Third, during the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, many Unitarian Universalists were involved in efforts to secure voting rights for African-Americans. These efforts were sustained, serious, and sometimes dangerous. At least one of our churches was bombed, and several of our ministers and lay leaders were threatened, assaulted, or shot: in 1965, Rev. James Reeb and Violetta Liuzzo actually lost their lives while taking part in the struggle for civil rights in Selma. One way for us to honor those who courageously persevered in that struggle is to make sure that we vote in every election that we can.
You could think of your journey to your polling place as a pilgrimage. You could think of casting your ballot as a sacrament. You could think of Election Day as a holy day. You could think of voting as a sacred expression of your Unitarian Universalist values. While you are voting you could be prayerfully mindful of the significant sacrifices of those who made it possible for more people to vote and thereby participate in our democracy.
So put Tuesday, April 26, on your calendar, and be sure to vote! And while you’re thinking about it, please also mark your calendar for Tuesday, November 8.
See you in Church - and at the polls!