Considering our duty as Catholics and Americans
With midterm elections around the corner, the university has pushed several initiatives to encourage voter registration and participation among students. Similarly, various nationwide campaigns for voter registration are hoping to increase voter turnout. On Tuesday, September 25, National Voter Registration Day, the popular social media app Snapchat released a voter registration tool. Instagram and Twitter also plan to run ads in feeds to encourage users to register to vote before the upcoming voter registration deadlines. These social media platforms are targeting their user bases, typically young adults, in an attempt to promulgate political participation amongst the younger generations. According to a PEW research report, however, although Generation X, Millennials, and post-millennials make up a majority of voter-eligible adults in the United States, they are still not projected to cast the majority of votes this November.
There are no guarantees that the past will repeat itself in low turnout among young eligible voters. Many of the groups hoping to encourage young Americans to get out and vote are optimistic. As citizens of the United States, we have the opportunity to participate in government by voting for our representatives. American citizens—especially young Catholic Americans—have a moral obligation to affirm their rights to vote and participate in elections in order to promote the common good.
As Pope Francis expresses in Evangelii Gaudium, No. 183, “An authentic faith … always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it …. If indeed ‘the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,’ the Church, ‘cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.’” To remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice, especially for the least among us, and to squander the ability to make change through the electoral process would be to do a disservice to oneself and one’s community. Young Americans should aim to cast an informed ballot guided by an informed conscience.
Unfortunately, in voting, we are often required to choose between flawed political agendas. Rarely, if ever, does any one candidate completely align with our moral convictions. This inability to find the perfect candidate does not undermine our duty to participate in electing leaders in our communities, states, and our nation.
Religious convictions aside, Americans have a secular responsibility to fulfill their civic duty in the voting booths. In a democratic republic, voting is a communal act, and, as such, power lies in the citizens as a group rather than as distinct individuals. Although one vote is not definitive in an election, there is still a responsibility to participate in voting. Voting was not always a right afforded to everyone, nor is it a right afforded to everyone around the globe, yet today many Americans take for granted the ability to walk to a voting booth and cast a ballot for a candidate they believe in. We need to take our responsibility more seriously, not simply because Snapchat tells us that voting is important, but also out of respect for the sacrifices of leaders who fought to gain the right to vote, participate in government, and affirm their identities as American citizens.
I for one, hope we vote with informed consciences so that we can proudly display our “I Voted” stickers with a sense of patriotism for this great country, appreciation for those who worked to affirm the right to vote for all Americans, and hope for the future. Moreover, as Catholics, we should wear those stickers to display a concern for the common good, a recognition of our responsibility in the fight for justice, and a commitment to informing and exercising our consciences. If you have not registered to vote, need to request an absentee ballot, or want to confirm your eligibility status, check out https://www.nass.org/can-i-vote, and encourage your friends to do the same.
Maggie Dever is a senior studying in Program of Liberal Studies and living off campus. She is a southern belle who hails from North Carolina. Please reach her at Mary.M.Dever.email@example.com.