Preparing for Election Day on Nov. 6
It’s never too late to prepare for Election Day! This is as true for the less appreciated and underrated midterm elections as it is for a politically heightened presidential election cycle. As the upcoming Nov. 6 midterm elections approach, I want to offer a few thoughts as you prepare to exercise your faithful citizenship.
Encourage Voter Turnout. John Gale, Nebraska’s Secretary of State, has predicted that only 28 percent of registered voters will turn out for Election Day. This translates into approximately 336,000 voters. For context, this is approximately 70 percent of Omaha’s total population and about 50,000 fewer people than the total population of Catholics across Nebraska.
While the voter turnout projection is low, it is not out of the ordinary. But, as Catholics, we know that settling for the ordinary is no way to live. In our life of faith, we desire the extraordinary, God himself. Likewise, we should aspire to the extraordinary and encourage greater-than-normal civic participation, which includes casting our ballots.
When encouraging family, friends, coworkers, etc., to participate in the upcoming election, you will likely encounter cynicism toward voting, elections and politics. Such encounters offer an opportunity to give a positive witness about voting, faithful citizenship and the nobility of politics. Whether it is offering the testimony of those who have fought for and protected the right to vote or reminding people of an inscription in our state capitol (“The Salvation of the State is Watchfulness of the Citizen”), much can be said about the importance of voting.
Study your faith, know the principles. The election season is as good a time as any to learn more and renew your heart and mind about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Catholic social teaching, and their relationship to candidates and issues. Our faith offers a rich heritage. Guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, our faith has seen and experienced much in its 2,000-year history. We can be assured of the solid foundation and guidance offered in sacred Scripture, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Other documents as well, such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” offer practical wisdom on the issues that confront us as faithful citizens in the United States.
Study the candidates and the issues. Equipped with the sure guide of our Catholic faith, it is critical to study the candidates who will be on the ballot and their positions on the issues. In the information age we live in, gathering the necessary data needed to make judgments about candidates and issues is a relatively easy task. Candidates typically have websites that express their values and stances on political issues. Various organizations – including the Nebraska Catholic Conference – have voter guides, candidate endorsement materials or candidate forums/debates, all of which can provide relevant information for understanding how candidates respond to specific policy questions. You can find the Nebraska Catholic Conference Voter Guide at www.nebraskacatholicvoter.com.
If information about the candidate’s positions is not readily available, as a voter you should feel absolutely empowered to seek out the candidate (including a good old-fashioned phone call) and ask specific questions. Voters often can get disgruntled with political slogans or platitudes, but that does not have to be the case. Especially in local races such as those that will be on the Nov. 6 ballot, a voter should feel unapologetic and confident that they can ask candidates about issues important to them. After all, the candidate is presumably there to win your vote.
Pray. It goes without saying, but bears repeating: Pray, pray, pray. In striving to “pray without ceasing” as St. Paul called us to do, find moments in your day to pray for candidates running for election – pray that God would raise up men and women who are after his heart and who seek to build a political society that honors and glorifies the Most Holy Trinity.
Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference, with headquarters in Lincoln. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.