On Nov. 6, will you head to the voting booth or the confessional?
The obligation to vote is not as well known as some other parts of church teaching. But it is an obligation of a Catholic nonetheless. And Oct. 9 is the deadline to register for Kentucky’s next general election.
You can register or update your registration at https://vrsws.sos.ky.gov/ovrweb.
If you’re unsure about your registration, you can check it at https://vrsws.sos.ky.gov/vic. This site can tell you where to vote — your precinct — and will provide your legislative district information.
There are a lot of reasons people don’t vote. Some people are sick of partisan politics. Others feel their votes don’t matter — what’s one vote worth in a sea of votes? Still others feel that by not voting, they are making a statement.
Whatever the reason, Kentucky’s voting statistics are abysmal.
According to the State Board of Elections, Kentucky has about 3.4 million registered voters, but fewer than half showed up in 2014 to elect a U. S. Senator and less than one-third of Kentuckians showed up in 2015 when we elected a governor. 2016 saw a better turnout, with nearly 60 percent voting in the presidential race.
Sixty percent is far from good, though.
In 1984, a race for a seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives came down to one vote.
Former Rep. Aubrey Williams, who had served four terms in the Kentucky General Assembly for the 42nd legislative district, was defeated by his challenger Ben Handy by one vote. One man still tells this story today: Had one of his friends, whom he knows failed to vote, and one other person voted that day, Rep. Williams would have won.
Everyone knew the race would be close, he says, but they were stunned that it came down to two people deciding to get to the polls and cast a vote.
All it takes to derail a well-intentioned voter is a moment’s distraction. Suddenly it’s 6:15 p.m. and the polls are closed.
Like anything really worthwhile, it takes intentionality to vote. This year, consider making voting a priority rather than an afterthought or one item on a long to-do list.
Consider reading “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a primer for Catholic voters. It’s available at usccb.org.
And then ponder these reflection questions:
- What is the connection between our faith and the desire to change the world for the better?
- What kinds of leaders does our society need? For what should they stand and how should they lead?
- Why do the bishops encourage all Catholics, whether able to vote or not, to be involved in political life? What are other ways, in addition to voting, that you can be involved in advocacy for important issues?
- How might public policies and laws be different if the moral principles from Faithful Citizenship were used as a basis for political decisions?
- What is conscience? What is prudence? How does one develop a well-formed conscience and the virtue of prudence? What role should they play in our decisions about who we vote for and how we advocate for change?
These questions can help prepare us do what the Catechism of the Catholic Church characterizes as a moral obligation (no. 2240):
“Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one’s country.”
See you at the polls in November.