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Chris CrawfordMay 16, 2024
Election poll worker Indira Barrios, 17, loans a pen to a voter at the La Quinta de Guadalupe retreat and conference center in San Diego on Nov. 4, 2008. (CNS photo/David Maung)Election poll worker Indira Barrios, 17, loans a pen to a voter at the La Quinta de Guadalupe retreat and conference center in San Diego on Nov. 4, 2008. (CNS photo/David Maung)  

At its annual gathering in Baltimore last fall, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops re-issued “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” This document can help Catholics make informed decisions on how they will vote in the 2024 election, including how to consider big questions about such topics as religious liberty, care for the poor, protecting the environment and what the bishops rightfully call the “pre-eminent priority” of protecting the unborn. Catholics should take this document seriously. It can serve as a counterbalance to partisan attempts to co-opt our religious beliefs or identity.

Working or volunteering for candidates who share our values is one obvious form of faithful citizenship. Early in my career, I felt called to help elect pro-life Republicans to office; I was a political organizer at the Susan B. Anthony List, the nation’s largest pro-life political organization. In recent years, I have been trying to convince politicians from both parties to prioritize issues that make it easier to start and raise a family. As an individual, I have also made a point of voting against candidates who took part in attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

This moment in our history demands that we work to ensure a free and fair election, as well as a peaceful transition to a new presidential term. Each of us should discern the ways that we can protect the democratic institutions that preserve our way of life. My organization, Protect Democracy, has partnered with Interfaith America to create a list of actions for faith communities to take in order to protect our election system in 2024.

I am passionate about my work protecting free and fair elections because we cannot effectively address any of the issues mentioned in “Faithful Citizenship,” from protecting the unborn to creating a more just economy,without a functioning democracy. All of the freedoms that we enjoy, including our religious freedom, are protected by our democratic institutions. The hallmarks of a democratic form of government in the United States are less certain than they have been in recent memory, but faith-based organizations are well-positioned to help protect them.

With tens of thousands of church communities across the country, Catholics are a vital network uplifting our pluralistic society. In addition to these churches, there are thousands of Catholic charities and nonprofits that step up and serve during crises, and help hold our communities together.

This important work can be done free from partisanship or political gamesmanship. For example, our elections depend upon approximately one million people to serve as poll workers or election judges at our polling locations. They are paid for their time and trained by professionals. Without their participation, our elections would have fewer polling locations and longer lines, and citizens would have less trust in the process. Individual Catholics should consider signing up to work at the polls during the 2024 election, and Catholic churches, schools and nonprofits should help meet this important need by giving paid leave to employees who do so. Getting started is as easy as signing up with an organization such as Power the Polls, which will send your information directly to your local election office.

At a time of deep division in our country, Catholics can also play a major role in building understanding across differences. Interfaith America and Protect Democracy have prepared a comprehensive guide for developing respectful dialogue, including the U.S.C.C.B.’s “Civilize It” initiative. Additionally, Catholic community leaders can meet with local election officials to get a better sense of how our elections are run, and can work with other civic leaders to increase trust in our elections.

There are a multitude of other nonpartisan ways that Catholics can support the infrastructure of our elections during this election year. They can help provide a more positive, peaceful voting experience at polling locations by serving as poll chaplains—clergy who provide a peaceful, nonpartisan presence and encouragement to voters at the polls. They can share accurate information on where and how to vote. Churches in the United States also have a rich tradition of serving as polling locations themselves, following guidelines that respect the First Amendment while providing a safe, accessible space for voters to cast their ballots.

Simply choosing the right candidate cannot be our only contribution to our country in 2024; we must commit to protecting the very foundations of our democracy. With the tools of Catholic social teaching and our belief in our republican form of government, we should seize this opportunity to serve our community in this important way.

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