Action Alert: Voting Disparity
This week, the Presiding Bishop is visiting Guam, and last week was National Voter Registration Day. In recognition of these two events, we’re highlighting the disparities in voting rights between residents of various parts of the United States.
During last summer’s General Convention, the Episcopal Church formally endorsed the principal of one person, one vote. Unfortunately, this policy and advocacy is necessary because people living in various parts of the United States do not have equal voting rights.
What do we mean disparities in voting rights?
In the United States disparities in voting rights range from inconsistent birth-right citizenship, to the varying rights of formerly incarcerated depending on state, representation in Congress and the Electoral College, to laws developed to make it more complicated or difficult for citizens, often racial and linguistic minorities, to vote. People born in the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico are natural born American Citizens. People born in American Samoa are U.S. residents but do not have birth-right citizenship. While residents of all U.S. territories may vote in presidential primaries, they can only send a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives and only the District of Columbia is granted electoral votes in presidential elections.
Moreover, differences in voting rights vary within the 50 states as well. The national Constitution assigned responsibility for administering elections to states, and many states further delegate this responsibility to counties. As a result, there are hundreds of different sets of rules, procedures, and requirements to exercise the right to vote. The lack of a single consistent set of rules is a particular burden to members of the armed services—for example, a group of Marines stationed abroad might all have different rules to comply with in order to vote.
While in some cases these rules and procedures are developed to guard against potential fraud, there are cases in which local government develop regulations to make it harder for certain groups to exercise their rights.
Take Action: Educate Yourself and Others
General Convention 2018 passed a resolution calling on the Church and its members to push all levels of government to “create policies to enhance voter participation.”
Every citizen holds a responsibility to vote, but also to ensure that others are able to exercise their rights. In order to do so, we must learn about the rules that govern our right to vote and take necessary action if the law is being abused to prevent any fellow citizens from voting.
We therefore call upon all Episcopalians in the U.S. to:
1. Ensure you are properly registered to vote
2. Check travel plans and deadlines for absentee voting
3. Find where your physical polling station is and make plans to get there
4. Learn about broader rules and procedures to vote in your county/district/territory including any identification requirements
5. Educate others on their rights and procedures to vote, taking into consideration age requirements for registering, past criminal convictions, and immigration status
And check out Lawyers and Collars for ways clergy and lawyers can get involved in protecting the right to vote.