By SAMANTHA SMITH | Published August 25, 2020
Growing up, voting was always important in our family. We talked about practicing our right to vote and making sure we participated in every election, local and national. When I was little, my mom would take me with her to vote after she picked me up from school. My favorite part, of course, was receiving the sticker at the end. In college, my family made sure that I was sent and returned my completed absentee ballot.
In my family, voting is our voice. We discussed upcoming elections and legislation at the dinner table and with extended family. While we didn’t always agree on each issue or candidate for office, the importance of voting was rarely up for debate. So, it was an exciting day for me in 2016 when I was able to work the polls in the November general election.
Historically in the United States, many groups of people have fought for the right to vote, particularly women and minorities. Many of us know the history of these protests and have passed on these stories for generations. People sacrificed, fought and died for the right to vote. And as far as we have come in this journey, there is still more work to be done to make voting easier and more accessible for American citizens.
On Aug. 11, I worked the polls for the primary runoff in Georgia. I enjoyed greeting people, helping them exercise their right and answering any questions they had about the process. People of all races and nationalities walked into the precinct that day, casting their ballots for who they felt would best serve their community.
It’s an over 12-hour commitment, but being a poll worker makes me proud. I enjoy helping others navigate the process and reassuring them that their vote matters. It’s one of my acts in social justice, which we are called to as Catholics.
As with everything else this year, voting has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. More people are requesting and sending absentee ballots. In June, Georgia began using new voting machines, which meant a learning curve for voters and poll workers alike. Fortunately, things will be ready for us to cast our ballots on Nov. 3.
In a letter shared after his death, Congressman John Lewis, civil rights leader, wrote, “Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed.”
Our vote is an extension of who we are and what we believe. Every time we vote, we are voting in the interests of our families, communities and the generations that follow. When we cast our ballots, it is in hope that those who take office will proudly represent us and take seriously our concerns. It is in hope that passed legislation will respond to the needs of our communities.
Of course, this is not an easy process. We all have different political views and ideas, and there’s never a “perfect choice” on the ballot. We must weigh the pros and cons of each decision. Our choices are not always easy and the outcome is not always what’s desired.
The voting booth is where we hope to effect change for the human dignity and sanctity of all human life at every age and stage. It is where we raise our voices and stand for justice.
There are many reasons people may choose not to vote in November’s election. Some feel like their vote doesn’t matter or are not excited about the choices. Some people have lost faith in the government system and feel that voting is unnecessary. With the number of coronavirus cases still rising, many feel uncomfortable casting their ballot in person. But no matter the reasons, I hope you cast your ballot.
Being a person of faith means believing that anything is possible for God. That no matter what we have been through, there is something better on the other side of it. Being faith-filled is trusting God to bring you through difficult times, even when things feel dark or impossible.
So to my fellow Catholics, I hope you will join me and put your faith to work this November. Vote for human life and social justice. Vote for your communities and future generations. And don’t forget to vote for the people that lost their voice to make sure there was one for you. The choices may not be easy, but there’s too much at stake not to put our faith in action.