Voter registration drive kicks off
by Donald E. Skinner
On the first Sunday of January, 150 members of the First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon, gathered in the sanctuary to kick off a voter registration drive. The event included the congregation's Peace and Justice Singers, a skit, and a message from the Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell. In addition, one of the singers had written a folk song, “Register Your Name to Vote” and there were buttons reading, “Your Vote Counts More in 2004.”
“People were very excited,” said Elaine Carter, a drive coordinator. “We gave out forty-eight voter registration kits. We almost had more volunteers than we could use. This is an issue people have a lot of energy for.”
In addition to the energy already flowing in Portland and some other congregations, UUA president William G. Sinkford is urging Unitarian Universalist congregations nationwide to get active in voter registration efforts this year. He emphasizes that this initiative is not partisan: “This is not about politics; it's about governance. We cannot claim to be a democratic nation if our leaders derive their authority from elections in which too few vote and whose legitimacy is open to question.”
Susan Leslie, director of the UUA's Office of Congregational Advocacy and Witness, said UUs are being asked to find ways in their communities to help register those who have historically had low levels of participation in elections, including low-income people, people of color, and young adults.
Congregations are being asked to join with local interfaith and community groups in those groups' voter registration efforts. Such groups include the League of Women Voters and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The UUA itself has joined with the Faithful Democracy Project through The Interfaith Alliance, an organization of individuals representing more than seventy faith traditions.
Many UU ministers, including the Rev. Kathy Huff of the First Unitarian Church of Oakland, California, have joined the Clergy Leadership Network, a national interfaith group of progressive religious leaders, in an effort to raise voter turnout. “We have a lot at stake as UUs in this election,” she said. “What is going on in Washington is antithetical to most of our principles. We need to get involved and make sure the democratic process is something the public is engaged in. As religious liberals we have an obligation to be doing this work.”
Voter registration information was mailed to congregations in February by the UUA and is also available at www.uua.org/voting. For a guide on the election-related activities that congregations are permitted to engage in, see “The Real Rules” at www.uua.org/uuawo. More information can be found at www.interfaithalliance.org. The Faithful Democracy Project plans to have a Web site by March.