Be There

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  10/21/2002
  After all is said and done, there is one basic rule for carrying out our duties in the political arena: be there.

Despite who likes which candidate, or what the polls say, or how well the arguments are articulated, elections are decided by the people who actually show up to cast their votes. What gets a candidate into office is that he or she has more voters arriving at the polls on Election Day than the opposing candidate has.

There is little time left before this year's elections. Hopefully, we have taken the time to find out who will be on the ballot, and where those candidates stand on the issues. Hopefully, we understand that the most important issue of all is the right to life, and that being "right" on a whole host of other issues can never justify being wrong on the foundational issue.

Now it all comes down to who shows up.

That's where you can help at the local level, and you can do it in two ways.

First of all, organize help to get people to the polls. Maybe some people need a ride. Parishes or pro-life groups can organize car pools or vans to accomplish this. Perhaps someone needs assistance to watch the children. You can volunteer to do so, or perhaps organize such a service for a group of parents. You can also simply call friends and relatives to remind them to get out and vote.

Secondly, you can assist those who cannot physically go to the polls to cast their vote by absentee ballot. This is important, for example, in the case of the elderly and homebound, or of people who will be traveling on Election Day. Circumstances of health or travel shouldn't deprive a citizen of his/her voice in the elections.

And let's not forget about the role of priests. We should be hearing from the pulpit during these days about our obligation to go to the polls. Some priests are over-cautious regarding what they may or may not say. But as the memorandum from the Office of the General Counsel of the US Bishops' conference states, "Both IRS and the Federal Election Commission [11 C.F.R. ยง114.4(d)] permit Catholic organizations to sponsor voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, provided that no bias for or against any candidate, political party, or voting position is evidenced."

Throughout the Old Testament, prophets challenged Kings to follow the laws of God. In our day, we not only have the opportunity to challenge government leaders, but to choose them. And the same hands that are lifted up to God in prayer are the hands that pull down the levers in the voting booth. Instead of simply complaining about the moral climate of our nation, let's take action to change it. As our bishops say, "Every voice matters in the public forum. Every vote counts" (1998: Living the Gospel of Life, n. 34).

This election day, be there.