New ELCA Social Message on Government and Civic Engagement
The 2019 Churchwide Assembly requested a new social message on government and civic engagement. The document titled “Government and Civic Engagement in the United States: Discipleship in a Democracy” was adopted in June of this year by the ELCA Church Council.
This offers a great opportunity for study and discussion by congregations, and can even work as a Zoom group discussion. There is a Study Guide, along with a Leader’s Guide for those facilitating groups. A Spanish translation is being prepared as well.
Minnesota Voter Information
The Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office has very helpful information on their website. The picture below shows just what the top part of the page looks like. Much more information is available when you scroll down. https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/
Although you may already be registered, you probably know people who are not yet registered! Think about the young adults in your life. Are they registered? Do you know any immigrants who have become Naturalized U.S. Citizens recently? What about low-income people or homeless with whom your church is engaged. People who have moved recently may not be registered yet under their current address. Give these folks a call, email or text them the link. Please be COVID safe while encouraging registration. Anyone may check to make sure their registration is current. Where to Register or Update Registration Online: https://mnvotes.sos.state.mn.us/VoterRegistration/VoterRegistrationMain.aspx
Voting During a Pandemic
Many of us do not want to be at our polling place on November 3. Several states saw outbreaks of COVID-19 directly connected to lines at primary voting places. In Minnesota, we have various options.
- Vote By Mail: Order an absentee ballot and vote by mail. Your ballot must be postmarked before or on Nov. 3, but don’t wait that long. Get it in as soon as possible! Order your ballot here: https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/other-ways-to-vote/vote-early-by-mail/
- Vote Early: Many cities and towns offer early in-person voting, and county election offices do as well. This is technically absentee voting, but the election judges present will make sure you do it properly & you have the certainty that it’s done! I voted last Friday, and felt confident with the health safety measures taken (mask up before going). https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/other-ways-to-vote/vote-early-in-person/
- Multiple Ballots?: I discovered on Friday while voting early that apparently I had asked for a general election ballot at the same time as my primary ballot. Since I hadn’t remembered that I’d already asked for a ballot, I had considered submitting one of the three ballot request forms from various organizations that arrived to my home. It’s a felony to vote more than one time, and I got a sick feeling in my gut realizing that I had already requested a ballot! But, Minnesota’s tracking system will only allow one vote to be submitted, so using my driver’s license number, the election judges cancelled any other ballot request and I was instructed that if a ballot arrived, I was to destroy it. Even if I tried to submit it, it would not be allowed or counted, but DON’T test the system with multiple vote attempts.
- Track Your Ballot: In tracking my ballot from Friday, that the system recorded it on Monday as “received and will be counted.” It also showed that my primary ballot, which I had sent by mail for the Primary Election was received and counted. Track your ballot here https://mnvotes.sos.state.mn.us/AbsenteeBallotStatus.aspx
- Voting In-Person on Election Day: Of course, if you choose not to vote early or by mail, you may still vote in person. Some communities are changing polling locations to be in a larger venue that allows for better distancing, so check your location in advance! (And wear your mask!!!) https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/election-day-voting/
Election Help Needed/Get Involved
- Become an Election Judge: These are the people that staff the election process, whether for early voting or on election day. Many of the regular volunteers are retired, and are in higher risk categories for COVID-19. Are you healthy and young? Help is still needed!
- Other Options: https://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections-voting/get-involved/
Candidate Contacts & Questions (Check their campaign websites for how to connect)
Candidates are trying to get your vote. They may be calling, stopping by, or holding online forums, which means you have the opportunity to talk with them & ask them questions. Be sure to mention that you are Christian, Lutheran, and an advocate with Lutheran Advocacy-MN. You can also email them!
Cover just one issue per email. With others you can divide up the issues for contacts because if you ask or write about all the issues at one time it may be overwhelming to the candidates. Mention that you will share their responses with others from your church, or family, or on social media. (Then don’t forget to share when you hear back!).
The following issues can be discussed with candidates for both the state legislature and for Congress. For each these issues, say something about why the issue is important to you, especially as a person of faith/Christian/Lutheran.
Housing – Explain that we were in a housing crisis even before the COVID crisis hit. Now many renters are unable to pay their rent (as they’ve been out of work or working sporadically). In addition, there are many homeless across the state, and when the eviction moratorium ends, we will have significant cascading homelessness across the state. Ask them how they plan to work for more affordable housing statewide, and more safe shelter options.
- Hunger – Explain that the economic downturn has increased hunger and it is only increasing. Some of that responsibility is with the federal nutrition programs, as administrative rules have been working to limit access to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). What will they do to address and prevent hunger in our communities?
- Renewable Energy – Explain that renewable energy (wind and solar) are significantly cleaner and are now less expensive than fossil fuels which include fracked gas and coal. With increasing storage options and grid management, electric stability and consistency can be maintained with renewable, clean energy. Minnesota arrived at the goal of 25% of electrical energy from renewable sources many years ahead of schedule. Ask candidates
- What they will do to speed up the transition to a clean economy;
- How they will ensure that Minnesota & the U.S. will not get left behind in the manufacture of clean technologies, as many other countries are transitioning much faster to the energy economy; and
- What they will do to help workers currently engaged in fossil fuel extraction or energy development to transition to the clean energy economy? (The transition is occurring and fossil fuel related jobs are being lost at increasingly rapid speed. The options are to help workers transition, or leave workers behind!)
- Climate Change – We have several state legislators and some members of Congress who still deny the reality of climate change. You can talk about renewable energy with these candidates/legislators without getting into climate change. However, we do need to move them into reality! Point out that megafires in California, increased intensity and numbers of hurricanes and tropical storms are symptoms of the changing climate! So are the severe floods and droughts that Minnesota farmers experience with increasing regularity! Ask the candidates what they plan to do to slow climate change, and how they will help Minnesota communities, workers, and farmers adapt to changing conditions.
- Racial Divisions – The divides between the ways that people act or treat others based on race is very appropriately in the spotlight once again! So are the ways that our systems and institutions favor some and discriminate against others. Mention some examples about how Minnesota has one of the biggest racial equity gaps. Think of examples in your community and/or borrow from state information or this article from the Star Tribune. Ask what the candidate will do to reduce and eliminate disparities.
Once again, my post has gotten long, despite coming back to it various times to try to shorten it. However, I hope it is helpful, and that you can use it be an informed voter who shows up, and who helps others be informed and participate as well!
Take care! Don’t forget to pray also for safe and smooth elections! May God watch over, protect, and bless both our voting process and all voters (regardless of party affiliation) in the midst of this odd 2020 pandemic year.