There has been a lot in the news lately about voting, concerns of voter fraud, voting by mail, and restriction of voting rights. I have to admit that a lot of times I read about this but don’t think of it as something that affects me or my family. However, in the most recent local election here in Massachusetts, it became an issue.
My son, who just turned 18, was excited to vote for the first time and helped us all request our voting by mail ballots. However, his mail-in ballot had a form not included in mine: it asked for ID. This is apparently a requirement in Massachusetts when you vote for the first time or your voting status has been inactive. My son doesn’t have a driver’s license yet, so we checked the form for other acceptable forms of ID. It said that anything addressed to him at his home address would be valid. So we xeroxed a piece of mail and put it in with his ballot, as directed.
However, his vote was rejected. The ID we used was on the approved list, but was not accepted. Thankfully, Lexington has a wonderful town clerk who called him on her own time (in the evening) to make sure it all got straightened out. It turns out that, although the form said that non-photo IDs were acceptable, in practice they really wanted to see a photo and preferred he use his learner’s permit as ID. It made me reflect that voting is not always easy or smooth and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Without the town clerk’s active intervention, his vote would not have been counted.
So this is your warning – if you perhaps haven’t voted in a while and your voting status is inactive, you’ll need ID to vote. And sometimes even if you have a valid ID it is not immediately accepted, so follow up (voting status is posted online) and make sure your vote is registered.
Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry recently wrote, “It is a Christian obligation to vote, and more than that, it is the church’s responsibility to help get souls to the polls.” This year, given the pandemic, voting is more difficult than usual. Poll volunteers are typically older adults who may not be able to risk their health helping at the polls this November, so more volunteers are needed. The national Episcopal Church has provided many resources for supporting voter engagement. You can find the Episcopal election toolkit here:
It’s especially important to remember that voting is not just about big national elections like the presidency. Local elections can have a much larger impact on the community as it is local officials who decide on the laws and policies that affect our everyday lives. If you care about police conduct, housing equity, gun safety legislation, education, or food security — all issues Redeemer’s Mission Committee and Racial Equity Action Team have worked on in the past – local officials will have much more impact on what happens than whoever the president is.
In a word, vote!