It is an unseasonably warm morning in Northeastern Ohio. The pickles Kim (shorthand for the three little people who live at our house) are running wild in a choppy sea of motley leaves. (Raking is on the list. The list is long.) I ask our 4-year-old — the one loping around with a Tyrannosaurus Rex strapped across his torso in a self-styled Baby Bjorn whilst brandishing a stick/pirate sword — what I should write about voting. Without stopping, without so much as lowering his wooden scabbard he yells, “Tell everyone about how you love God.” Not bad, Captain Dino-Daddy. Not bad at all.
I love God. And this makes voting complicated. I don’t mean to be disingenuous. I am not an undecided voter … at all. What I’m trying to say is that neither of the candidates stands in line with the totality of Catholic moral teaching. Neither one of them perfectly conforms to the beautiful vision of Blessed John Paul II’s “culture of life.” Neither one of them has put forward a foreign policy that adequately addresses the most dire human rights issues facing our world. Neither one of them has addressed grave problems plaguing our own criminal justice system. We have to do the best we can. We are called to use our consciences. This is a sacred and messy and vital task. It requires a tremendous amount of intellectual and spiritual attention. It matters.
I love God. And this makes voting essential. Participation in civil government is our responsibility as folks who believe in the God who hears the poor, who frees the captive, who loves the vulnerable. You have to vote. YOU have to vote. You have to vote because there are millions of people in this country who will be affected by the result of this election who simply cannot.
They are the more than 7.1 million women and men currently imprisoned in this country. (It should be noted that prisoners are allowed to vote in Maine and Vermont. It should also be noted that many states do not allow parolees to vote and some will not restore voting rights to an individual with a criminal record who has served her time and paid her fines … ever. And, lastly, it should be noted that an alarming number of these folks are poor people and people of color.)
They are the children (at all stages of life) who stand to inherit this nation … especially those who are touched by poverty, drug abuse, violence, and failing schools.
They are the trafficked … the children and women smuggled across our border primarily for the purpose of sexual slavery. They are the undocumented families who have come to our country in the face of crippling poverty and violence to find a better life for their children.
They are the folks in your own community and family with severe developmental and mental health issues who may not be capable of voting.
These are the vulnerable among us. We are their voice. We are called to seek their good just as sincerely as we seek our own good in casting our ballot.
My aim is not to steer you toward one candidate or another (although, truth be told, I have a plethora of political opinions, which I’m usually overly eager to share). My aim is to encourage you to show up. My aim is to invite you to pray about the election … to pray for the candidates and the poll workers and the people who will wait in long lines on Election Day and, most of all, the wisdom and courage to vote in accordance with your own conscience. My aim is to remind you of the vulnerable who have no voice in this election — who depend on you and me to remember their interests as we cast our vote. My aim (thanks to the reminder of a very precocious and sometimes startlingly prophetic 4-year-old) is to remind you that voting is an expression of our love for God and neighbor. I hope you’ll join us — our whole family (pickles Kim included) — in showing up at your polling place tomorrow. We’ll be the two frazzled yet determined looking grown-ups with the double stroller and the miniature buccaneer.