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Selecting the next president

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The countdown has already started.

This isn’t a message from our nation’s shopping malls about the dwindling days left to shop for Christmas presents. In less than a year, Americans will go to the polls to elect a new U.S. president.

To be an informed voter ready for Election Day, we all have a lot to do before that day gets here. And for many of us there is another significant election before the general election on Nov. 4, 2008 — a state presidential primary.

In fact, if you live in Iowa, presidential caucuses will be held on Jan. 3. Voters in New Hampshire don’t know yet when their “first-in-the-nation” primary will be held, although it likely will fall soon after Iowa’s, and could even be held in December.

The South Carolina GOP primary will be held on Jan. 19 and precinct caucuses will be held in Nevada that same day. Democrats in South Carolina will indicate their preference for a standard-bearer on Jan. 26.

Florida voters are scheduled also to go to the polls on Jan. 26, far earlier than officials at the national Democratic and Republican headquarters desire. Also breaking from the party line, Michigan is slated to hold its presidential primary on Jan. 15.

And this could all change as the states jockey for earlier and earlier primary dates.

An expected 20 states, all wanting to be a major player in determining who will be the next U.S. president, will hold primaries on Feb. 5. It is projected that over half of the U.S. population will have had the opportunity to vote in a primary by the time the polls close that day.

That means the vast majority of us have less than four months to determine who we believe should be our party’s candidate for president.

While it is no doubt important that you have an understanding of what the candidates’ believe on the issues, it is even more important to have a grasp of what God’s Word has to say on these topics.

I believe it is critical that as Bible-believing Christians we vote our values, our beliefs and our convictions. Jesus is to be Lord over all that we do, even the decision on who earns our vote. This choice is far too important to be left to a last-minute decision on Election Day (Nov. 4) about which candidate (chosen by others if you don’t vote in your state’s primary) you dislike least.

And you can’t fulfill your civic duty unless you are registered to vote in the primary and general election.

Some states with earlier-than-usual primaries will close their voter rolls within the next two months. The voter registration deadline for Florida is Dec. 31 and states like Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia and Colorado require voters to register by January 7.

So if you haven’t yet registered or perhaps your family has moved since the last election, next week would be a good week to travel to your local county clerk’s office to register to vote.

Military and overseas ballots will be available in three weeks — Dec. 7 — in California.

With a presidential campaign that started in earnest back in the early summer, many Americans may well be suffering from campaign overload by the time the political party conventions take place in August and September 2008.

Get to know these candidates now and their positions on the issues that matter most to people of faith, with an eye toward scriptural teachings.

There is a wealth of information available on each person running for office — from their campaigns and on the Internet. Waiting too late in the process to determine your selection in the race for the White House could mean the difference between your candidate being victorious and being an also-ran.

Be a registered voter, an informed voter, and vote your values, beliefs and convictions both in the primaries and on Election Day.
Richard Land is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

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  • Richard Land