Council encourages voting

Council encourages voting
October 03
00:00 2014

Faith-based organizations have a key role to play in helping their members navigate changes in North Carolina’s election laws that could make voting more difficult for some citizens, says the N.C. Council of Churches.

In an appeal sent to leaders of its member church bodies, to people of faith statewide, and to other allies, the Council argues that broad voter participation is a core principle of American democracy. It urges them to act now to make sure that congregants are properly registered to vote for the Nov. 4 election and that they understand the new rules, which include a restriction on early voting.

When some voters face undue and unnecessary inconvenience, the appeal points out, their voices can be muffled and their views disregarded by those in power. The concept of social justice – basic to the Christian tradition – hinges on fair treatment of people at all social levels.

“Of course there must be rules keeping elections orderly and honest,” the Council says. “But the aim should be to increase voter participation, not to limit it. That is how more members of society, including the poor and powerless, can have a say in picking their elected officials and thus in shaping the policies by which their community, their state and their nation will be run.”

The Council is mindful that religious bodies must remain nonpartisan in any political activities, but says that leaves plenty of room for them to make sure members are up to speed on voting requirements – including a critical change in registration rules.

Formerly, voters could register and cast their ballots on the same day during a 17-day early voting period. Now, the period has been cut to 10 days and no “same-day” registration is allowed. The deadline to register this fall is Oct. 10.

Starting in 2016, voters will have to produce an official photo ID. Poll officials this year will ask voters whether they have the necessary documents, but no ID is required in order to vote this November. Churches can help dispel potential confusion that could deter some voters this fall from showing up.

The Council’s appeal to church leaders goes into more detail as to what faith organizations can and should do to make sure eligible voters know how to work within the system to cast their ballots.

“The N.C. Council of Churches favors public policies that give every North Carolinian a fair chance to realize his or her dreams,” says the appeal. “As to which candidates are best suited to develop and pursue those policies, that’s for the voters to decide. The Council’s article of faith is that the more voters take part in those decisions, the better public interests are served.”

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