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More Detailed Suggestions for Election-related Activity on the
Part of Pro-life Organizations

This page is presented as a service to pro-life organizations to plan activities and simple steps that can be taken in the final weeks before Election Day to educate and mobilize voters.

Articles and Text Boxes What Can I Do Legally?
Letters to the Editor  General Material for Distribution
Using the Internet 72 Hour Plan/Getting Out Your Vote
Voter Registration  

Articles and Text Boxes

Articles in Your Publications 

Do not pass up the opportunity to discuss political responsibility in your own publications. Even a single article in your newsletter between now and the elections serves to remind readers of their responsibilities to take part in the political process. Your organization may not be permitted to endorse candidates, but you can have a lot of influence on the process simply by reminding people of general themes such as a) the duty to vote; b) the duty we have to evaluate candidates responsibly; and c) the issues that matter most and the responsibility public officials have on those issues. You can use, in whole or in part, the material available at www.PoliticalResponsibility.com. There is material there suitable for all denominations and for secular audiences.

Text Boxes for Your Newsletter 

Included on this site are camera-ready text boxes that you can include in your newsletters. There are others, suitable for a wide range of audiences, available for download at www.PoliticalResponsibility.com.

Letters to the Editor 

One of the most effective ways for your members to participate in the electoral process is by writing letters to the editor. Because of the nature of your group, you would probably have the most success by focusing on religious publications. Such periodicals offer excellent opportunities to encourage your mailing list to participate in the electoral process and to do so in a way that advances the Culture of Life.

Our website, at www.priestsforlife.org/letters, explains our Letters to the Editor Project. This involves

a) encouraging individuals to write letters to the editor more frequently, and

b) organizing groups of people in which a few writers compose a large number of letters, and then the rest -- who may not be as comfortable composing the letters -- choose which one they want to send in as their own. Provided the individual agrees with the content and wants to send it in, this is a perfectly legitimate way to assist them in making their voice heard.

Our web site provides an explanation of how to write effective letters, as well as sample talking points and sample letters. Following is some of the information that you may want to make available to your members.

Talking Points

Responsibility to Vote

  • Active participation in our community is a fundamental element of Christian commitment and American life.

  • Pro-life people must make registering to vote a priority rather than considering it a secondary concern.

  • While there is never an ideal candidate, one can try to determine which candidate will best advance respect for life.

  • If neither candidate respects life, a vote to prevent the candidate who will promote the greater evil is morally permissible as a means of limiting evil.

Primacy of the Abortion Issue

  • There are many issues to consider in elections, just as there are many parts needed to build a house. But without a foundation, all the other parts of the house collapse. Without the right to life, all other efforts for social justice fail.

  •  If a candidate expressed support for terrorism, such a person would disqualify himself for public office. People would not even ask his position on other issues. Support for abortion disqualifies candidates in the same way. The first requirement of a public servant is to be able to tell the difference between serving the public and killing the public. If a politician cannot respect the life of a little baby, how is he supposed to respect yours?

  •  "Respect for the dignity of the human person demands a commitment to human rights across a broad spectrum…. Yet abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental human good and the condition for all others" (US Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life, 1998, n. 5).

The Courts

  • It is a key responsibility of the President of the United States to nominate individuals to serve on the Supreme Court and on other federal courts. Each United States Senator is then able to vote on whether to confirm the president’s nominee. These courts often have, in practice, the last word on public policies touching every aspect of life. Therefore, the results of elections for President and US Senate also shape the courts and, indirectly, the kinds of decisions they make.

  •  There are likely to be more Supreme Court vacancies in the coming few years.

  •  The makeup of the Court will determine whether decisions like Roe v. Wade will remain in place for another generation.

  •  The federal courts must have judges who are willing to apply the Constitution as it is written rather than "discovering" unwritten rights such as abortion and gay marriage.

  •  Some Senators may filibuster, and even stop, judicial nominations because they don’t like the nominee’s position on certain issues, despite the nominee’s qualifications as a judge. This is an erroneous, politicized view of the role of the courts.

Tips for writing effective letters

  • Know your topic thoroughly! You need not be an expert on abortion, the pro-life movement, or a particular candidate to write a letter to the editor. Your letter is not a treatise on all the complexities of these issues. Instead, it will be about a small aspect of one or more of these topics. Know enough that you can make your point thoroughly and completely.

  •  Keep your letters focused. Don't get sidetracked by including far more information than the letter calls for. Many effective letters discuss only one candidate's stand on one particular aspect of a policy discussion.

  •  Tie in the letter to an article or editorial that was recently published in the publication to which you are writing. There are countless topics worthy of interest and discussion, but what periodicals consider especially important is reflected in their reporting.

  •  Have a friend or family member edit the letter for both form and content. Well-written letters are more likely to get published than those with grammatical errors or misstatements.

  •  Go negative. Often the most effective election-related activities do not even mention the name of the candidate that the activist supports. Instead, letters can focus on the other candidate's record or positions. Portray the opposition candidate as an extremist, especially on issues like partial-birth and born alive infant protection. Pro-abortion candidates can be shown as unwilling to compromise at all, and that is extremely unpopular with voters. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that "going negative" is somehow dirty politics. When a candidate is running for public office, discussion and criticism of his policy positions are essential to having voters make informed decisions.

  •  Especially in the cases of those who oppose any and all pro-life legislation, portray pro-abortion candidates as "captives/slaves/puppets of special interests", such as the National Abortion Federation and the National Organization for Women.

  •  If space permits, consider potential objections to your letter and reply to them within the letter. It is much more difficult for opponents to respond if you have already answered their arguments.

Using the Internet

Through blogs, You Tube, and other websites, the internet has more influence on the political process today than at any other time in history. The internet enables groups and individuals to counteract the bias of the media, within the limited budgets they often face.

The internet is an excellent tool for recruiting volunteers. Priests for Life has set up a form that allows volunteers to select projects of interest from numerous potential activities. Link to the form at www.PoliticalResponsibility.com to give the members of your group the opportunity to participate in our election efforts.

Unfortunately many members of your group are unaware of the positions that candidates and political parties take on the major issues. Provide them with a link to www.votinginfo.org where they can find such information. A more informed electorate turns out in greater numbers.

There are numerous other web sites to which you can link to provide people with access to electoral information, statements of Church leaders, and explanations of practical activities.

Throughout the year, Priests for Life distributes numerous press releases and statements, both its own and those of other leaders. Help distribute this information by sending it out on your group e-mail list.

Voter Registration

Registering Your Members 

Millions of pro-life believers who are otherwise eligible are not registered to vote. The place to start correcting this situation is among our own members and supporters.

The good news is that technology has made this much easier than it would have been just a few years ago. It is now possible to electronically connect your members with voter registration forms (see www.priestsforlife.org/vote). This simplifies the process and makes it far less intimidating. E-mail your group members and make them aware of this option. They can fill out their information online, print the form, answer the two questions at the top, sign the form and mail it. Voter Registration has never been easier.

Mailings, phone calls, and faxes to members who are not registered, encouraging them to do so, is an important activity. A simple reminder can be included in mailings that are already going out. Let your members know just how easy it is to register. The most common excuse people use for not registering is that they do not want to be called for jury duty. Inform them that registering to vote does not increase their likelihood of getting called for jury duty. Jury selections are taken from lists of taxpayers, utility bill payers, drivers license holders, etc.   

Voter Registration Drives

Tax-exempt organizations and Churches are permitted legally to conduct non-partisan voter registration drives. Detailed information about the process can be found at www.priestsforlife.org/vote. There is a national voter registration form accepted by almost every state, and our web site indicates other requirements and deadlines for registering in each state. The form only takes a minute or two to fill out. If people are not sure whether they are registered, or if they have moved since the last election, they should register.

Meetings

Meetings of your members, prayer or Bible study groups, conventions, banquets, and other gatherings provide an excellent opportunity to have a voter registration table available.

Churches

Exit polling has shown that those who attend Church regularly vote overwhelmingly pro-life. To capitalize on this fact, Priests for Life and other Christian organizations have joined in calling for "Voter Registration Sundays." A diocese, a particular parish or congregation, or a citizens' organization, can arrange for voter registration drives whereby people at Church are urged to register on their way out. Find out more at www.priestsforlife.org/vote or ask our staff for a voter registration packet at 888-735-3448, ext. 260.

What Can I Do Legally?

Many tax-exempt organizations are concerned about what they may and may not do regarding elections. Confusion or over-cautious legal advice in this area leads to massive failure to do simple things that can have a profound influence for good.

It is helpful to keep in mind some general principles that apply to tax-exempt organizations and Churches.

a) Groups founded for a particular mission may always address the issues with which they are concerned, even when those issues also happen to be the topic of political debate.

b) Groups may always conduct non-partisan voter registration, education, and get-out-the-vote drives. The sense in which these efforts are "non-partisan" is that they are not restricted to people of one particular party, or to supporters of one particular candidate. Moreover, in the course of such activity, the group does not endorse one or another candidate.

c) Groups may teach about the responsibility of government and of elected officials to protect human life. So, for example, to say, "We have an obligation to participate in our nation's elections, and to use our vote to advance a culture of life," is acceptable, as are statements such as, "The first responsibility of public officials is to secure the right to life of their people," and "Any public official who supports abortion contradicts the most basic principles upon which our nation was founded, and contradicts the very meaning of public service."

d) Groups may in fact make available for rent, at market value, their mailing lists to political parties and candidates. These lists may not, however, be donated as a gift to the candidate or party, and must be made available to all candidates on the same terms.

e) Candidates may appear at the group's functions and assemblies, provided no endorsement or solicitation of funds is made, and provided other candidates have the same opportunity if they desire it.

f) Pastors and leaders of tax-exempt 510 (c) 3 organizations may individually and personally endorse candidates for political office, but in doing so must make it clear that this is done in an individual capacity, not as the leader of the organization, and may not use any of the resources or vehicles of communication of the organization in order to communicate such an endorsement. The person's full title in the organization may be used for identification purposes.

 Note: These guidelines should not be construed as legal advice regarding your particular situation. Groups should always consult their attorneys for specific legal advice. Churches and pastors may also obtain legal advice free of charge regarding their particular situation by contracting the James Madison Center for Free Speech (www.jamesmadisoncenter.org) or the Alliance Defense Fund (www.alliancedefensefund.org).

It is helpful to keep in mind some general principles that apply to tax-exempt organizations and Churches.

a) Groups founded for a particular mission may always address the issues with which they are concerned, even when those issues also happen to be the topic of political debate.

b) Groups may always conduct non-partisan voter registration, education, and get-out-the-vote drives. The sense in which these efforts are "non-partisan" is that they are not restricted to people of one particular party, or to supporters of one particular candidate. Moreover, in the course of such activity, the group does not endorse one or another candidate.

c) Groups may teach about the responsibility of government and of elected officials to protect human life. So, for example, to say, "We have an obligation to participate in our nation's elections, and to use our vote to advance a culture of life," is acceptable, as are statements such as, "The first responsibility of public officials is to secure the right to life of their people," and "Any public official who supports abortion contradicts the most basic principles upon which our nation was founded, and contradicts the very meaning of public service."

d) Groups may in fact make available for rent, at market value, their mailing lists to political parties and candidates. These lists may not, however, be donated as a gift to the candidate or party, and must be made available to all candidates on the same terms.

e) Candidates may appear at the group's functions and assemblies, provided no endorsement or solicitation of funds is made, and provided other candidates have the same opportunity if they desire it.

f) Pastors and leaders of tax-exempt 510 (c) 3 organizations may individually and personally endorse candidates for political office, but in doing so must make it clear that this is done in an individual capacity, not as the leader of the organization, and may not use any of the resources or vehicles of communication of the organization in order to communicate such an endorsement. The person's full title in the organization may be used for identification purposes.

General Material for Distribution

Priests for Life Materials

Order the following materials from the Priests for Life online store at www.priestsforlife.org/store.

Voting with a Clear Conscience - This booklet contains ten easy steps to help people participate in elections in a way that takes into account the various moral considerations that pertain to voting.

What does the Church teach about Life Issues? - Published by Liguori, this booklet presents a proper understanding of the "consistent ethic of life."

You Wouldn't Even Ask - This brochure puts the abortion issue in context by comparing it to terrorism.  It makes the case that a politician who supports abortion is as unqualified for public office as a candidate who supports terrorism.

Ten Responses to Pro-Abortion Politicians - Many politicians attempt to dodge the abortion issue by putting up smoke and mirrors to blame others or circumstances for their support of abortion.  This offers people short responses to such arguments.

Caesar Must Obey God - Unfortunately, many Catholics have forgotten that life belongs to God.  In this piece, we remind them that government is subservient to God and that man-made laws are only legitimate when they adhere to God's law.

Religious Beliefs, Abortion and the Law – This brochure answers the criticism that we are trying to impose our beliefs on others through the lawmakers we elect.

Are You a Single Issue Person? - Political correctness tells people that it is not fashionable for a person to vote on a single issue.  Here, we remind Catholics that abortion is a foundational issue upon which all other issues depend. 

Documents from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics - This document is a challenge to all Catholics to embrace the founding principles of the United States and the teachings of the Gospel of Life. It is a call to Catholics at all levels in the Church, including the hierarchy, to take on an even greater public witness regarding the sanctity of human life.

Faithful Citizenship – Every four years, the United States bishops issue a message to all Catholics regarding the importance of civic participation and the need to evaluate issues in a way that advances human dignity and the common good. The titles of these documents may vary each time they are issued; Priests for Life always makes the full text available online.

72 Hour Plan/Getting Out Your Vote

Each person has one vote, but each person can influence thousands of votes. Many elections are close. Some elections have been decided by a single vote, and many have been decided by margins far smaller than the list of the most active members of your organization. The "72 Hour Plan" simply focuses on having your members do all they can in the last three days before Election Day to actually get people to the polls. Elections are ultimately won simply by having the greater number of people show up to vote.

There are numerous efforts in which the members of your group can engage in the final days before the election. Please make your members aware of some or all of the following projects.

Encouraging Others to Vote

At meetings, in newsletters, and through all your other channels of communication, simply urge your members to vote, and make the invitation as often as possible as the election draws near.

GOTV E-mail

If your group has an e-mail list, send out an e-mail to your list the day before the election asking that your members come out to vote. This does make a difference, because encouragement from a source that they respect may get some to vote who otherwise would have allowed one or another factor to get in their way.

GOTV Calls

The single most effective way to ensure that your group members come out to vote on Election Day is to place live calls.  Organize a group of your members to make calls to as many on your list as possible.  This serves not only as a reminder to people that they have a responsibility to vote, but also that the way that they vote is tied to their faith and their pro-life position.

Helping People Get to the Polls

Although absentee ballots are available, many elderly or incapacitated people either learn about them too late or simply do not know how to obtain one.  Sadly, this usually means that these people end up not voting.  Try compiling two separate lists, one of those who will need rides to the polls, another of those who are willing to assist them in getting to the polls.  The latter are of the most help when they have use of a car, though it is possible that they would simply be able to walk or take public transportation with people who do not feel confident in being able to make it to the polls by themselves.

Poll Watching

In past elections, there were numerous charges made by both Republicans and Democrats that election laws were broken on Election Day.  The best way to counteract this is to have your members participate in poll watching.  Poll watching is a very simple activity with a minimal time commitment, although those who are most committed may wish to take off Election Day to assist in the effort.  Individuals can simply contact either local party to volunteer.  Typically either a campaign or party will conduct a brief training seminar to acquaint volunteers with the activity.  Then, on Election Day, watchers ensure that no laws are broken at the polling sites.  While this may seem insignificant, election irregularities have been involved with countless close elections.  Whether preventing intimidation at the polls or ensuring that individuals receive only one ballot, poll watching is an excellent way for people to fulfill their political responsibility.

Early Voting

Many states have adopted early voting programs separate from absentee ballot programs. The dates that early voting begins vary from state to state; sometimes this is in-person voting, other times it is by mail. The advantage of early voting is that last minute obstacles that may arise – like waking up sick on Election Day or encountering car trouble – will not keep one from casting a ballot. If your state offers early voting, inform your parishioners! The information for each state can be found at www.priestsforlife.org/states.

Voter Education 

Many organizations publish non-partisan voter guides to inform their members of candidate positions. 501(c) 3 voter guides, i.e. guides that neither indicate agreement with candidate positions nor advocate the election or defeat of a candidate, can be published in your newsletters and distributed among your members and by your members to the general public. Information on how to find such voter guides is at www.votinginfo.org. Please encourage your members at to view these and to distribute them widely.

In the days and weeks leading up to Election Day, volunteers are needed to distribute voter education materials. Encourage your members to support local right to life groups who are organizing literature distribution campaigns by volunteering for that activity. You can invite them to sign up for volunteer activities at www.electionactivities.org. 

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Priests for Life
PO Box 141172 • Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. 888-735-3448, (718) 980-4400 • Fax 718-980-2542
mail@priestsforlife.org