In the Bible, a span of 40 days means something significant is happening: When God floods the earth in Genesis, it rains for 40 days and 40 nights (7:12). When the Israelites spy on the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:25), they do so for 40 days — and later, when they grumble against God, they’re forced to wander 40 years before they enter the Promised Land. Before Jesus begins his public ministry, the devil tempts him for 40 days in the desert (Matthew 4:1-2).
With the midterm election day just 40 days away, we’re about to confront our own set of temptations. For many of us, these temptations may include moments of cynicism, despair, or even apathy, especially when we remember all we’re up against: Over the past 60 years, only about 40 percent of eligible voters go to the polls in midterm elections compared to 50-60 percent in presidential elections. On top of that, since the 2020 election, 18 states have passed new laws that will make it harder for people to vote and these laws will disproportionately affect people of color. And 60 percent of Americans will have at least one candidate on their ballot who supports former president Donald Trump’s false claims that he won the 2020 election. With these formidable challenges, it’s easy to wonder: Where do we even begin?
Maybe you’re no stranger to these questions: Will my vote even matter? What do we focus on when there’s so much that’s needed? Is there really anything I can do?
The good news is that each of us can play a critical role in overcoming midterm blues. In doing so, you will join a growing movement that is embracing voting and voter protection as an integral part of living out our faith and honoring the imago dei in each of us. While there’s no magic solution, now is the perfect time to make sure every eligible voter nationwide has everything they need to cast their vote, which increasingly means possessing knowledge, motivation, and determination. Here are five concrete and actionable ways that each of us can help empower and inspire every eligible voter to vote this November.
1. Help register voters
Helping register new voters is one of the most important and impactful actions that anyone can take. In many states, the deadline to register is 30 days before the election — a deadline that will soon be upon us — but in others you can register at your polling site when you show up to vote on Election Day. You can find a list of deadlines for each state here. Fortunately, there are many easy tools to check one’s registration status or register to vote. In fact, my colleagues at SojoAction have built a great voter registration tool at sojo.net/vote (English) and sojo.net/vota (español) where you can do just that. It’s particularly important to help people who recently turned 18, people who recently moved, and people who recently became citizens to register to vote.
2. Help voters obtain a valid form of ID
In many states, particularly those with legislatures influenced by Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen, voting has become more difficult since 2020, and that often manifests as identification requirements that can be onerous, particularly to people in underserved groups and vulnerable situations. While we must work in the long term to fight back against voter suppression at the local, state, and national level, for the purposes of the upcoming election it’s critical that every voter knows exactly what forms of ID are acceptable in their state and how to obtain such identification. Vote Riders is a nonpartisan nonprofit that specializes in just that.
3. Pray and connect to other faith activists ensuring access to the vote
Starting today, Sojourners is partnering with the National Council of Churches to kick off 40 days of prayer and action leading up to the election. Each day will feature a prayer on NCC’s Facebook page and YouTube channel and a specific call to action, from answering voting questions from parishioners at churches to volunteering at expungement clinics, which help restore voting rights to people with criminal records. If you’re a member of the clergy, we invite you to consider serving as a poll chaplain. As a trusted leader, you can help offer a moral presence at polling places and ensure that voters are able to cast their vote free of intimidation or suppression. You can find out more and volunteer with Sojourners and other partner organizations through the Faiths United to Save Democracy campaign at turnoutsunday.com.
4. Help people with physical challenges access the polls or mail their ballots
As Election Day approaches, check in with your family and friends to see if they need any help either with mailing their ballot or with getting to and from the polls on Election Day or during early voting. This step can be especially important for helping people with mobility issues due to age or disability. Sometimes physically accompanying a loved one to the polls is all it takes to make the difference between someone voting and not voting. In the long term, you can also advocate that polling places everywhere be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which the law requires in theory but doesn’t always match the reality on the ground. The National Disability Rights Network has a helpful primer on the problem and solutions.
5. Share your story about why you vote
Telling your own story about why you vote can be both a source of inspiration and encouragement. The most persuasive and effective people who can convince someone to vote is someone they already know and trust, whether that’s a family member, neighbor, fellow church member or work colleague. You can also share and amplify your story with Sojourners’ Let Justice Flow campaign on all social media using the hashtags #WhyIVote and #LetJusticeFlow.
Justice can be like water that satisfies a parched land, refreshes farmworkers, cleanses the muck off our streets, and is safe enough for us to drink. It takes all of us doing our part to see this kind of justice. Voting is one critical way that we add our drop of water to this election so that justice can truly roll down like the mighty waters in the months and years to come.
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