in the congregations
Voter registration starts at home, churches find
Unitarian Universalist congregations have mobilized to register voters in their communities by forming outreach coalitions with other organizations, sitting at supermarkets and bus stations, even going door to door. What might prove surprising is that some congregations are practicing voter inreach.
Wendy Cooper, social justice coordinator for the First Unitarian Society in Madison, Wisconsin, one of the largest UU congregations, said that places like university towns often have a large number of transient residents, including students, who are not yet registered to vote. “We wondered how big an issue this was,” said Cooper of her own congregation. “But we registered 17 voters before the presidential primary date.” Since then Cooper says deputized congregants have been available periodically to register voters.
The First Unitarian Church of Oakland, California, is asking all members to sign a pledge card promising to vote. The goal: 100 percent of the congregation makes a commitment to vote. Sherry Larsen-Beville, a church member and co-chair of the Oakland Coalition of Congregations' Get Out the Vote campaign said that two-thirds of the congregation had already pledged by July. “When we've reached a 100 percent commitment,” she said, “we'll hang a banner from the steeple.”The Faithful Democracy Coalition, a group of fifteen denominations and religious organizations including the UUA, will also be asking member congregations to issue pledge cards as part of its Have Faith and Vote campaign. The cards, which describe the Faithful Voter Covenant say, in part: “My vote is my voice, and I have a responsibility to my community and myself to use it. . . . I will have faith and vote!”