Are elections all there is to democracy? Is citizenship all about voting? In even-numbered years in this country, it sometimes seems that way.
News media, politicians and civic groups are making sure we don’t forget that 2018 is an election year. On Tuesday of next week, April 3, Wisconsin voters will have a chance to vote on a Supreme Court Justice, as well as candidates for local government offices. Then there is the partisan primary on August 14, and the general election on November 6, with candidates for Governor, state Attorney General, Congress, and the Legislature on the ballot.
Elections are important, and it’s vital that we responsibly exercise the right to vote. The outcomes of elections are more than political theatre; they have very real consequences for the thriving of our communities, the well being of our neighbors, and the health of creation.
That is why the Wisconsin Council of Churches website includes a page of voter resources. It can help you find out how to register to vote, when and where to vote, and what’s on the ballot. There you can also find perspectives on the values at stake in our public choices, and ideas for nonpartisan ways your congregations can support its members in making informed and faithful voting decisions.
But if it all begins and ends with elections, I don’t believe we have a real democracy at all – just a periodic referendum on who gets to run the show. We all have to do more.
It can, for starters, be just one more thing – which is why some (as in this video ) speak of “voting plus one.” After voting, commit to taking one more action to influence public policy – the decisions we make together about the conduct of our common life. It can be learning more about an issue and then contacting a legislator, writing a letter to the editor, circulating a petition, joining a civic group, asking a question at a candidate forum or town hall, testifying at a public hearing, or any number of other ways to let your voice be heard.
The Council offers help with the “plus one” as well. You can:
- Sign up for occasional E-advocacy email alerts to be notified of important issues before Congress or the Wisconsin Legislature on which your voice is needed;
- Help build the political will for serious action on childhood in ten years by endorsing the goal to cut childhood poverty in Wisconsin in half in ten years – and get others in your family, friends, church, and community to do the same;
- Contact public officials using our Legislative Alert Center about any matter of concern to you and your community;
- Lead a study group in your congregation or community on hunger, child poverty, immigration, racial equity, interfaith relations, or civil dialogue.
When you leave the voting booth, commit yourself to one more act of public witness to God’s will for a more just, peaceful, and thriving world. (And if you can’t vote due to youth, citizenship status, or anything else, you can still choose to take one of the above actions.) Your voice matters – and it is needed!
Peter Bakken, Coordinator for Public Policy