Faith communities are strategically and uniquely positioned to be on the front lines of defense against voter suppression in the upcoming midterm elections. By ensuring members of their community are registered to vote, know their polling place, and other voting rights, faith communities can ensure voter participation especially among persons of color and other minority groups. Faith communities can play a vital role in making sure every vote is counted.
To help diverse faith communities, which all affirm that all people are created in in the image of God, protect the right to vote of all people and thus affirm their inherent value as God’s children, Sojourners and Skinner Leadership Institute in partnership with faith-based civic engagement organization formed the Lawyers and Collars program. Lawyers and Collars is a nonprofit, multiracial and interfaith voter protection program.
According to the website the purpose of the Lawyers and Collars program is “to engage Pastors, Imams, Rabbis, and other faith leaders, standing alongside lawyers at voting precincts of vulnerable citizens. They will provide a combined legal and moral presence against voter suppression, intimidation, and harassment expected to rise in Midterm Elections 2018.”
More from the website:
“Lawyers and Collars program will bring together faith leaders, working in partnership with election protection lawyers, and civic engagement organizations to involve communities of faith in voting rights education and protection of our most vulnerable citizens at polling stations and beyond.”
“An essential activity of the Lawyers and Collars voter education and protection program will be the “We Are Watching” meetings with state election officials in such states as AL, FL, MI, MN, NY, OH, PA, WI. The meetings will remind state election officials that interfaith leaders will be monitoring the election process to ensure a fair election process. The “We’re Watching” meetings include state-level gatherings with diverse faith leaders and voter protection training sessions.”
Faith leaders and leaders within faith communities have an opportunity to combat voter suppression efforts by providing accurate information to members of their communities and reaching out into their neighborhoods as well. The Lawyers and Collars program is a collaborative initiative to help leaders have the information they need along with a combined legal and moral presence to fight against voter suppression.
While faith communities are not to be in the business of partisan politics and certainly not telling members how to vote or becoming fundraising organizations for candidates, it is part of protecting every person’s inherent worth and dignity to assure their right to vote.
Most laws related to voting are local, and it takes networks of people in each community to guarantee that every citizen has accurate information, is registered, and knows their polling place. Faith communities are well positioned to assist making sure people are registered to vote and know the particulars that apply to their county such as polling places and early voting procedures.
Our democracy is at stake in the coming election. And as Lawyers and Collars put it: “Nothing diminishes the rule of law and our precious democracy more than voter suppression and efforts to marginalize and diminish the impact of vulnerable voters.”
Faith communities can fight against voter suppression and be a moral compass protecting the right to vote of every citizen. However, this fight is not limited to faith communities, but it something every citizen can take part in.
It is both a civic and moral responsibility to assure that the voting rights of all people are protected. Our democracy depends on us all doing our part. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Whether through Lawyers and Collars or other community organizing we must fight together to protect the voting rights of the vulnerable in our communities.