UUs mobilize to register voters
Give Unitarian Universalists a mission, and they go to it in a big way.
Last fall Unitarian Universalist Association President William G. Sinkford urged UUs to get involved in voter registration efforts this year. Sarah Craft, the UUA's voter project coordinator, estimated in May that at least one hundred congregations had gotten involved in registration and other election-related efforts such as poll-watching, and the number was growing weekly. “I'm getting lots of calls,” she said. “Some people know exactly what they want to do. Others want me to help them brainstorm. And when I put out a call for help on a particular project, congregations tell me ‘Oh, we're already doing that.'”
Additionally, sixty UU congregations in faith-based community organizations affiliated with the Gamaliel and Industrial Areas Foundation networks have made voter mobilization a priority.
In Lexington, Massachusetts, members of the youth group at Follen Community Church obtained lists of registered voters from the town clerk's office, then went to the high school and approached those students who were eligible but not yet registered to vote. They registered sixty of 190 eligible students.
Fred Seidl, a retired college dean from Buffalo, New York, is traveling around the country in his van, helping congregations organize around voting issues. Reached in Chicago in May, he said, “The level of enthusiasm is very high. As one minister in Florida told me, there's a lot of righteous anger that some people were prevented from voting in 2000.” In Florida, UUs are not only registering voters, but also working to help ensure there's a paper trail for electronic balloting.
September will be a critical month, Seidl said, when people will be most receptive to registration efforts. Voter registration is an activity permitted under law to churches if it is non-partisan.
Congregations planning registration efforts are encouraged to find a local group to partner with. The UUA is allied with three major voting rights coalitions: Faithful Democracy, Campaign for Communities, and National Voice. Through Faithful Democracy, the UUA will be working with other denominations to support the newly formed organization Time to Vote which is educating workers and employers about laws that require employer flexibility on election days allowing employees time off to vote.
The UUA's Young Adult and Campus Ministry and Youth Office programs, in cooperation with the UU Service Committee, will hold “voter work camp” weeks in Boston and New York City during the Democratic and Republican conventions in July and August.Information about voter registration and education is at www.uua.org/voting. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (202) 296-4672 x22. Information about what congregations can legally do around the issue of elections is at www.uua.org/uuawo.