Published July 26, 2012
The time for the election of the President of the United States is quickly approaching. Are you registered to vote? If you are a registered voter, you might think that for most Georgia Baptists that may not be a relevant question since probably most Georgia Baptist church members are registered to vote.
Interestingly, I read these statistics recently: There are 60 million evangelical Christians in the United States. Twenty-four million of them are not registered to vote and an additional 12.9 million did not vote in the last presidential election.
With these facts in hand, I want to encourage all of our pastors and congregations between now and October 9 to emphasize the importance of voter registration among your church family.
Perhaps you have not thought about it much, but you can have a voter registration booth in your church and provide voter registration applications to those who need to register.
Brian P. Kemp, our Georgia Secretary of State has put it this way on his website: “As Americans, no right is more precious than the Constitutional right to select our leaders. Yet many of eligible Georgia citizens are not even registered to vote.
There was a time in our nation’s history when barriers were erected to limit citizen access to the voting booth. Today, after the hard work and sacrifice of so many Americans, all citizens are guaranteed the right to have their voices heard. African-Americans gained the right to vote in 1866. Women secured the right to vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment, and 18-year-olds were extended the right to vote in 1971. The federal Voting Rights Act further safeguards the right of all Americans to participate in our electoral system.
These precious rights are only of value if citizens take time to exercise them. We need your help to reach out to Georgians who are not yet registered. With your assistance, we can work towards insuring that Georgia becomes a leader in voter participation.
Different rules may apply to Deputy Registrars. Please contact your county registrar for additional information.”
The Secretary of State’s office lists two important websites. The following will be helpful if you would like to have a voter registration drive in your local congregation, www.sos.ga.gov/elections/VRdrives/. Then, for those of you who would like to register online or gain other information about voter registration, you may go to www.sos.georgia.gov/elections/VRinfo.htm.
Voter registration applications must be postmarked by October 9 in order to qualify to vote in the election on November 6.
The following are requirements in order to register to vote in Georgia:
1. Be a citizen of the United States
2. Be a legal resident of the county
3. Be at least 17 ½ years of age to register and 18 to vote
4. Not serving a sentence for conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude
5. Not found to be mentally incompetent by a judge
In a conversation I had with the Secretary of State’s office, I learned that you can request up to 100 voter registration applications verbally, but anything over 100 will have to come as a written request. I believe providing an opportunity for voter registration will be a great service to the people in your church who for one reason or another have never registered to vote. I was also told that you should communicate with the registrar in your county to secure the application forms.
I am sure you were inspired as I was by the Iraqi people who risked their lives to vote. It was in 2005 and as they voted they dipped their fingers into a bottle of blue ink indicating that they had participated in the elections. They did so courageously in the face of a multitude of threats against anyone who would participate in the election.
We are blessed in America to have the freedom to vote without fear of persecution for doing so. It is a right and a privilege for every American citizen. I want us to do all that we can to get Georgia Baptists registered to vote during the presidential election on November 6.
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