Restrictive Voting Laws UnChristian
On Nov. 3, 2020, I volunteered at a ballot drop box, helping voters fill out their ballot envelopes correctly and handing out “I Voted” stickers. People stopped by to drop off their ballots throughout the day while running other errands or during their lunch break. People of all colors and a wide range of socio-economic status came, excited to participate in this country’s electoral system. I didn’t know who a single one of them voted for. Their ballots were already sealed in security envelopes, away from the eyes of anyone but official ballot counters. But who we voted for didn’t matter. We were all grateful to live in a country where the voices of every-day citizens matter.
Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a historic period in which this participation could be threatened.
For Washington state voters, it can be difficult to understand all the recent news about restrictive voting laws. Washington allowed online registration and mail-in ballots even before Covid-19 forced other states to modify their voting processes. Multiple forms of identification are accepted to register as a Washington voter and pamphlets with information on issues and candidates are even mailed out along with ballots! But Washington is in the minority. Voting is much less accessible in other states as it is, and with recent partisan fighting over voting laws, it is becoming even more difficult for United States citizens to participate in state and federal elections.
Moving from Washington to Georgia for school was a big change for me, and not just because of the humidity. Voting laws in Georgia are some of the most restrictive, and following the 2020 election, our governor passed more laws that would (among other things) make it harder to request an absentee ballot, make it illegal to provide water to someone waiting in line to vote, and give a huge amount of oversight to the State Election Board. These laws all restrict access to the ballot, especially for voters of color and disabled voters.
Other states are following Georgia’s lead. As of last month, at least 18 states have passed 30 new laws that make voting less accessible. There are bills in Texas waiting to be voted on that would do many of the same things the Georgia laws do. The repercussions of these bills if they become law are so restrictive and so damaging to our democracy that Texas democrats have flown to Washington D.C. to pressure federal lawmakers to pass nation-wide legislation that would protect voting rights. This legislation, known as the For the People Act, would ensure things like same day registration, online registration, early voting, mail-in voting, ballot tracking, and independent redistricting. These measures would make voting more accessible and more secure. And Washington state already does them.
I am not going to argue that there is one Christian or biblical or moral form of government. Living together with other people will always be tricky and required compromise. But we are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, so if you have benefited from Washington’s voting laws, do your part in expanding these resources to your neighbors. Support the For the People Act, listen to the voices of those who might vote differently than you, and remember that every one of us is made in God’s image and are all equally worthy of having our voices heard. And maybe we can get one step closer to God’s Kingdom on earth, which I imagine looks a little like that ballot drop box in which everyone was embraced regardless of color, ability, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, or party affiliation.
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