Voting Rights and Election Reform
Voting Rights, Election Reform, and Democracy--UUtheVotein2020 #VoteLove
Religious & Civil Liberties, Election Reform, Voting Rights

One of the fundamental principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is the use of the democratic process. As an expression of our faith, many Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations engage in voter registration, election reform, protecting voting rights and democracy, and Get-Out-the-Vote drives.

Defending the right to vote has been central to the work of the UUA and at the core of Unitarian Universalism for decades—from expanding enfranchisement for women and Black people  to advocating for a path to citizenship for immigrants; from our history of civil rights engagement to taking on the New Jim Crow and white supremacy today. As a faith community UUs are vocal and active about voting rights and have contributed to change throughout history. In the past several years, UUs have been part of a groundswell of voting rights, electoral work, and democracy movements that have emerged and gained even more momentum since the 2016 US elections. 

In 2018, UUs worked with partners who share our values to urge elected officials and candidates to work for a Green New Deal, to decriminalize poverty, defend the rights of LGBTQ people, fight for reproductive justice, and end migrant detention and deportation and mass incarceration. We canvassed, gathered signatures, phone banked, registered people and got out the vote for justice oriented ballot initiatives. We shared our values with our neighbors  and asked them to participate in democracy.

The UUA is supporting UU congregations, organizations, and individuals in a major effort for democracy and support of electoral justice in the 2020 elections.  Electoral Justice is a term and practice developed by the Movement for Black Lives. We have analysis, partners, resources and funding for you! See below.

Election Engagement 2020 and Democracy

Spiritual grounding:  Our prayer is for democracy to be a spiritual practice of accountability that resists fascism. -Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen

The Fifth Principle of Unitarian Universalism calls for the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.

Why now? With the increasing control of our government by corporate and special interests, voter suppression, and the alarming rise of authoritarianism, we face many challenges to ensure democracy and a just society. We also have seen a rise in people’s movements led by people of color, women, and others impacted by injustice, a rise in activism, and the election of progressive candidates. This is electoral justice.

Analysis of mid-term elections and heading into 2020:  

“Politics is a struggle for power—over ideas and interests—and after this year’s midterm, two things remain clear. First, voter suppression and intimidation, racism, and corporate money continue to infect U.S. politics like a virus. Second, despite those obstacles, the United States is a much more progressive country than most pundits and political analysts believe. Voters this election cycle embraced many progressive candidates and ballot measures, even in so-called conservative states. And though Trump was not on the ballot, the midterm election was viewed as a nationwide referendum on his leadership and presumably his corruption.”  Progressive Victories Lay the Groundwork for a 2020 Groundswell, Nov 16, 2018, Peter Dreier

  • What you can do: View our Webinar video on Democracy & Electoral Justice 2020, offered August 14, 2019. 

Speakers included: Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray—UUA President; Adam Eichen--Co-Author of Daring Democracy (Beacon Press, 2007); Everette Thompson--Side with Love Campaign Manager; UU State Action Networks & UUs for Social Justice Representatives, & Susan Leslie--Congregational Advocacy & Witness Director

More than 340 people registered for the call from 40 states plus Washington DC and there were groups as well that watched together from various congregations. UUs are getting ready for a massive effort in 2020 and beyond!

  • View the Webinar videoPDF of Webinar PowerPoint; Transcript of the Webinar chat
  • Article by Adam Eichen, related to his comments on the webinar for working systemically for democracy reform and expansion of democracy while we work on the 2020 elections.

Getting Ready & the Importance of Partnerships: There are over 50 million people in the US who are eligible to vote but who are not registered and millions of registered voters who are infrequent voters. 

The most effective voter registration, engagement, and Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts are done in partnership with community, state, and national partners. Many congregations already have justice partners whose efforts include voter outreach. Supporting their efforts from door knocking, data entry, phone calling, giving rides to the polls, renting vans, raising money and more is the best way to keep building the movement as we work for electoral justice in 2020. This can be done as we work for climate, economic, LGBTQ, migrant, reproductive and racial justice. These issues are what motivate people to vote. While congregations cannot endorse candidates they can talk about justice and what elected officials and candidates have to say about these issues. There are also many democracy groups that work exclusively on combating voter suppression and increasing civic engagement. See section below on Partners. Partner groups can train congregational volunteers for voter registration activities from door knocking to data entry, obtain lists of unregistered and infrequent voters, provide maps, forms, and software, and track progress.

Three Components of a UU Voting Campaign:

  1. Connect with a partner and in consultation with them, choose at least 4 times this fall and/or spring for volunteers for voter registration drives.
  2. Advocate for our UU values, support ballot initiatives for justice, as we organize for civic engagement.
  3. Get Out the Vote massively! From early and absentee voting to election day on November 3, 2020. 

Know the Rules:

UU congregations have non-profit tax exempt status under IRS 501©3 Rules. Advocacy, voter engagement, and political activism are all permissible but endorsement of candidates is not. Congregations can work with other 501©3 groups and 501©4 groups on joint advocacy efforts and non-partisan voter engagement. See:

Partner and Resource Groups

UU congregations and organizations are working with partners to protect the vote, register people to vote, advocate for our shared values, and get out the vote!

Get Connected

Funding

  • The UU Funding Program has grants of up to $500 for UU congregations participating in voter projects, available beginning January 2020.
  • Take a collection, make a donation, and use Faithfy - Crowdfunding UUism - to raise funds for your voter engagement efforts.

Theological Grounding and History

Resources

For more information contact socialjustice@uua.org.

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