On Voting

*“Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.”    Deuteronomy 1:13

This has been a very stress-filled and contentious election season. And yes, I am aware how much that is an understatement! I have seen family members divided because they are voting differently from one another. I have seen people drop lifelong friendships because they discovered their friends were voting differently from them. I have seen people post that if they found out someone voted differently from them, they would end the friendship. I have seen the same between family members. I have seen so much anger, hatred, and intolerance it has broken my heart. Because you see, this is a form of coercion and it is not ok. It is also important for you to know and for me to acknowledge that the people I have heard and seen all this from are all good people who feel passionately about their voting choices.  It is why I love the fact we have the right to a secret ballot.

In the beginning of our nation, voting was typically done very publicly. The earliest votes did not even involve a paper ballot but was done by voice vote. Doing your voting this way meant everyone knew how you voted as your vote was cast while all your friends and neighbors watched and listened as each person had their “say” about their vote.

But…as you can imagine voting in this way was problematic. People would go to the polls, they would go before the sheriff, and the sheriff would ask how the person intended to vote. The voter would indicate their choice and the clerk would write down both the voter’s name and vote. Once the vote was enrolled the sheriff would announce the vote to all who were there. Many times, for local elections the candidates were in attendance and when a vote was announced, they would rise and thank the voter for their support. Later, color-coded ballots were used to indicate to all around who you voted for in the election. You can see how these systems, no matter how they were done were both unwieldly and ripe for coercion. One example of the coercion our early voting systems engendered comes out of New York in the form of a man by the name of Boss Tweed. He was the “boss” of the New York City political machine: Tammany Hall. When election time rolled around, he would hire as many men as it took to make sure the people voted according to what he wanted. They would be threatened with bodily harm if they didn’t vote how Boss Tweed demanded. And all this is just a 100,000-foot over-view of a slice of our voting system. There is a lot more to learn and if you are interested, your local library will have lots of books on the subject or you can go to google scholar to search out information on our early voting history and how we came to have the voting system we do.

Reformers, people who recognized the problems our early voting systems were to a democratic nation, began to address our voting practices. It was necessary in order to maintain a democracy and I am grateful for their wisdom and the work they did to ensure our voting system was as fair as possible. Because if someone like Boss Tweed and others were able to fix an election through coercive tactics then the principles our country was founded on would no longer work. We the people need to have a voice in the elective process. It is why every eligible individual should vote in every election! And why coercion is so bad no matter what form it takes – it negates the voice of the people. Fortunately, between 1890 and 1920 many voting reforms went into effect. One of them was the secret ballot. No one has the right to know who you vote for unless you wish to share that information. And just so you know, if you were to ask me who I voted for my answer will be: None of your business…said with a smile.

The thing is: We all have our own opinions on who the best candidates will be in any given election year for any given office. We are not all going to agree on the best candidate or even the lesser of two evils.  The question becomes: Is how we vote a reason to end a relationship? Or cause a family rift or worse a feud? I would hope not. The differences we have can be talking points, (as long as both parties are willing to listen to each other.) The important thing is that we all get out and vote and if we have different opinions at least agree to disagree if you are unable to have a civil discourse about your voting choices. At least remember this important point: voting is our way as citizens of this country that we can have our voices heard.

For those of you who may be thinking I am in violation of the separation of church and state as a pastor, I assure you I am not. I am well within my rights to encourage everyone to vote. In fact, that is exactly what I should be doing. What I am not allowed to do is to tell you who to vote for…if I did, I would be a little like Boss Tweed…no thank you. And I am not allowed to endorse any candidate. Which I am not. I honestly do not care who you vote for just please research your choices and then go out and vote.

Why vote? In a nutshell: Voting is the way you get your voice heard. It is important.

Peace,

Pastor Beth

*While the Old Testament typically uses the male pronouns since this was a patriarchal society, please as you are voting choose the best candidate based on their record and abilities not on whether they are male or female.

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