Voter engagement is crucial to the success of the election process. In the past several election cycles, communities of color in some regions of the country have faced attempts to suppress voter turnout through tactics of intimidation. What can faith communities do?
Danielle Ayers and Reginald Williams, in a book addressed to the Black Church, offer four ways to support voter empowerment. Their advice can be useful to white allies, as well, who wish to collaborate in voter education.
- Publish a Voter’s Rights Guide. Potential voters need information on how and where to vote, how to register, and basic rights every voter should know. The details differ state by state. Create a brochure or printed pictorial guide to be distributed widely. Include information on absentee voting, early voting, and eligibility requirements. The League of Women Voters can help provide this information. Or direct voters to the League’s online guide, Vote 411.
- Publish a Voter Education Guide. Send the candidates of each major party a questionnaire on their stance on important issues. This empowers the voter with information and provides a way to hold politicians accountable. For example, in county elections in Dallas in 2010, Friendship Baptist Church collaborated with the League of Women Voters to produce a voter’s guide that emphasized two issues—the criminal justice system and the county budget.
- Hold a Public Forum with Candidates. Forums offer a space for candidates to share their policy proposals with citizens, and for citizens to ask questions. First Baptist Church, a small congregation in the Chicago suburb of University Park, hosted a candidates forum. That year the mayor and trustees were up for election. The forums took place over two days, with 75 persons attending each evening.
- Organize a Voter Registration and Turnout Program. Everyone U.S. citizen has the right to vote. Promoting registration and turnout can empower citizens to vote for candidates who represent their interests. As Ayers and Williams note, “Voter registration and turnout can serve as political equalizers and promote inclusiveness. As a consequence, we must have solid programs that promote ongoing participation in the electoral process.”
 Danielle Ayers and Reginald Williams, Jr., To Serve This Present Age: Social Justice Ministries in the Black Church, (King of Prussia, PA: Judson Press, 2013).
Photo: By Alvimann. Found at Morguefile.com