If All Votes Are Not Counted, We Will Take to the Streets | Sojourners

If All Votes Are Not Counted, We Will Take to the Streets

Demonstrators take part in an interfaith rally in Philadelphia in 2017. Photo: Michael Candelori / Shutterstock.com

People of diverse faiths have a moral obligation to protect the integrity of the election.

Right this minute, people all across the country are voting early or by mail, or making plans to vote in person. As religious and spiritual leaders, we are prepared to take to the streets peacefully if it becomes clear that votes are not being counted or if a legitimate election outcome is being subverted.

We invite people of faith, conscience and goodwill to be ready to join us, as a public expression of our religious values.

With the election underway, ugly, racist, authoritarian voices have come even further out of the shadows and now occupy space within the mainstream of society, manifested in countless efforts to make it harder for people of color, poor or working people, and young people to vote.

Every single person of faith, regardless of political party, should be appalled by this development. This is far from the first time that voter intimidation or suppression has left a moral stain on this country — ask any Black person if you doubt that. But the time again has come for religious communities to join with others to say: enough is enough.

There has been too much fundamentally dishonest questioning of the legitimacy of legally cast, mail-in ballots. Too many threats of violence related to the election. Too much organizing to make it harder for communities of color and low-income communities to vote. Too many refusals to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Too many states making it next to impossible for people to vote.

There is no way that these realities reflect religious values. None whatsoever.

We are in the midst of a global pandemic. In addition, parts of the country are facing or recovering from massive floods or forest fires, making it unsafe to travel meaningful distances. Clearly, we will see a large increase in mail-in voting this election.

The bottom line is every vote should count no matter how it’s cast.

Yet in 2,000 square mile Harris County, Texas — whose population of 2.4 million people, including Houston, is 20 percent Black and 43 percent Hispanic — there is one legal dropbox, which is more than 40 miles from parts of the county. Despite a court’s ruling last week ordering multiple drop-off locations, the shut down sites have yet to be reopened.

But it’s not just Texas: Wisconsin’s legislature will not accept mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day, even if they are postmarked by Nov. 3; the U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld this decision.

North Carolina’s legislature now requires a witness signature on mail-in ballots, one of many ways that state governments have complicated the mail-in voting process.

These misguided state policies always — not sometimes but always — disproportionately impact Black, Latinx, poor, and young voters.

This is sickening and profoundly wrong. Let us be clear: It is wrong to make it prohibitively difficult for working people to vote. It is sinful to purge legal voters from the rolls. It is hateful to intimidate people in an effort to prevent them from voting. It is immoral to confuse or mislead people so they are not able to cast their ballots. It is ethically indefensible to disregard legally cast ballots or refuse to count them.

These actions represent a threat not only to our democracy, but to the foundations of our morality as a nation. They are nothing less than an undisguised effort to deprive millions of people of their legal right to vote.

We are concerned to the very core of our beings. By law, and certainly in the eyes of God, we want to affirm what should be self-evident: Every vote, in person or by mail, counts. We call on public officials to ensure that every vote is counted.

We call on law enforcement and all people to commit to nonviolence in the aftermath of the election.

We call on our public officials not to rush to judgment on the outcome of the election and demonstrate the patience and commitment to ensure that a correct result is announced. Our government’s legitimacy hangs in the balance.

Should our cries be ignored, we will march with thousands of other concerned citizens in peaceful protest through the streets of our nation.

Together, we can help ensure a truthful outcome, and we accept nothing less. As people of faith, we believe that this is what is right. And we want our public officials to know that we stand as witnesses of their work, in service to the truth.

In this moment of great importance, may our faith and our commitment to integrity be our guide, and may God be with us all.

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