Monday, October 31, 2016

Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column

November 2016: "Voting Made Simple"

Dear Church,

We as a Disciples of Christ congregation are a fundamentally democratic organization--we either elect members of the Board of Directors to make decisions on our behalf or, in the case of annual budgets and pastoral hires, we vote on those decisions ourselves as a direct democracy. That spirit of democracy, I believe, comes in no small part from us being an American-founded denomination, where cyclical elections have always been the order of the day.

And while I ordinarily aim to keep my love of church and love of country as separate entities, I thought it prudent to use my column this month to outline how to register to vote and how to vote, just in case you need a primer or a resource. This election matters, your vote matters, and I would love to see our congregation get a 100% participation rate in the election amongst our members! 

(Obligatory disclaimer: this is not legal advice. The laws I interpret for a living are much older than Washington's voting laws!)

If you are not yet registered to vote, you may register to vote in-person by the close of business on Monday, October 31st, at the Cowlitz County Auditor's Office in Kelso. You will need to bring a valid Washington state driver's license or ID with you in order to register, and the clerk will walk you through a small amount of paperwork to register you to make sure you can vote on Election Day, which this year falls on Tuesday, November 8th.

If you are already registered to vote, you *should* have received a ballot in the mail at the address the county auditor's office has on file for you. Simply fill the ballot out according to its instructions, place it into the enclosed secrecy envelope, and then seal the entire thing in the enclosed reply envelope and sign and date the back of it. You can mail your ballot back to the county auditor's office with one first-class stamp, or you can drop off your ballot at one of the two drop boxes at the civic circle in the center of town at no charge anytime on or before November 8th.

If you are unable to, or uncomfortable with, voting by mail, you may vote in-person on Election Day at the voting center set up by the county auditor's office (since Oregon is an entirely vote-by-mail state, you Oregon folks can skip this paragraph!). You may contact the auditor's office at (360) 577-3005 to determine where you should go vote on Election Day should you choose to do so in person. If you do vote in person, bring a valid photo ID with you in case you are asked by an election worker for it. You are also entitled to vote so free of intimidation or coercion by volunteers, amateur "poll watchers," or other voters. If you experience any sort of coercion or intimidation while voting, you are strongly encouraged to contact the FBI's public integrity section at (202) 514-1412.

And that's it!

I realize much of this information may be old hat for you if you are used to voting in every election, but every once in a while, I have to deliver a message that may not be applicable to all of us in order to ensure that all of us are in fact on even footing. Your right to vote is a right that has been fought for, campaigned for, and protected for decades. I humbly encourage you to exercise it on (or before by mail) this Election Day, because while just one vote may feel like a grain of sand compared to the tens of millions that are cast, that vote represents your voice and your values, and how precious a thing that is in God's sight!

I will be saying a special prayer for all of us on Election Day, and I hope you will be doing so as well. It will be a day of big decisions, and a prayer for God's wisdom to guide us in those decisions would be most surely welcome. My prayers and blessings to you all in this season of not just elections, but thanksgiving and togetherness!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric

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