SBC Life Articles

Combating Voter Apathy

In 2004, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) launched iVoteValues.com with the rallying cry: "Because how you vote today impacts tomorrow."

A record voter turnout, including more than 27 million evangelicals, turned back eleven state initiatives that endorsed same-sex "marriage" and helped to maintain leadership in Congress and at the White House that has embraced traditional values.

ERLC President Richard Land is convinced God used efforts like the non-partisan iVoteValues.com initiative to make clear to Americans of faith that they have a right and an obligation to have their faith inform their voting decisions.

"It's not overstating the 2004 election results, both in the presidential and congressional contests, to say that traditional religious values won the day," Land said, emphasizing the credit goes to voters who embraced the message that "voting your values, beliefs, and convictions is best for America."

And Land is quick to point out that the principles that were important in the 2004 elections are just as important in 2006.

"Every election is important," Land said, noting mid-term elections historically draw less attention than presidential contests. Less than 37 percent of eligible voters made it to the polls in 2002, a number that has remained relatively consistent over the past thirty years, he added.

"While interest among voters is always higher in presidential election years, the issues are no less important in off-year elections," he continued.

Land is hopeful the ERLC's three revamped Web sites — erlc.com, faithandfamily.com, and iVoteValues.com — will upend voter apathy that often plagues midterm elections.

Indifference among Christian voters, Land said, stems from the fact that many don't realize faith-based values should be impacting their decisions in the voting booth in every election — from local referendums to races for the White House.

Once Americans understand that the Bible has something to say about contemporary issues, and consequently the policy positions of candidates, Land said, even more Americans will come forward, register to vote, and get involved in the civic process.

According to a May 9, 2006, USA Today story, if recent history holds true, the future is ominous for the majority party. "During the past three decades, three elections have taken place in a similar environment: One party controlling the White House and Congress, and both branches of government getting low approval ratings. In those elections, the party in power lost fifteen House seats in 1978, thirty-four seats in 1980, and fifty-four seats in 1994."

The article, "5 issues redraw playing field for Election," noted to maintain the majority in the House, the GOP must hold on to fifteen seats. The margin is six seats in the Senate.

Based on the success of its Web-based voter mobilization and education effort two years ago, the ERLC is upgrading and relaunching two of its Web sites to help ensure the lessons learned two years ago are not lost on voters in this fall's election.

In retooling erlc.com and faithandfamily.com, Land said the sites will more effectively equip Christians to engage the culture on moral, ethical, and public policy issues that are impacting families.

The entity's flagship Web site, erlc.com, has been revamped to include the latest information from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the federal government, including public policy updates. The site has been enhanced with an array of biblical resources, cutting-edge research, insightful commentary, cultural analysis, and interactive message boards.

The iVoteValues.com initiative, which partnered with James Dobson's Focus on the Family in 2004, will again promote an awareness of the immediate and long-term importance of "values-based voting," Land said, in pursuit of the effort's goal to register two million previously unregistered but qualified Americans for the 2006-2008 election cycles.

The Web site currently contains up-to-date information on every political candidate seeking office on the state and national level in the U.S. Online resources are available to assist churches in hosting nonpartisan voter registration drives and in emphasizing Christian citizenship during worship services or Bible studies.

The iVoteValues.com site provides churches with nonpartisan voter registration and voter awareness resources that are well within the Internal Tax code restrictions for 501(c)(3) organizations, promised Land, saying once individuals are registered to vote, statistics show most make it to the polls on Election Day.

He said participation in the electoral process is not an extrabiblical command but should be an important element of every believer's life. The iVoteValues.com initiative's call to civic engagement has a solid biblical foundation, said Land, noting Jesus calls His followers to be "salt" and "light" in the culture.

"We want to help Christians be salty 'salt' and penetrating 'light,''' said Land, citing Christ's teachings in Matthew 5.

Looking to Scripture, Land says God expects Christians to register to vote and vote for the candidates whose positions most closely square with His values. The iVoteValues.com resources are designed to help citizens do just that, he said, again noting features which assist individuals with the voter registration process and delineate the Bible's position on many critical issues.

He said reliable estimates indicated the iVoteValues campaign impacted more than four-hundred thousand Americans in 2004 by assisting them to vote in a "more intelligent and more concerned way."



July 2 is Citizenship and Religious Liberty Sunday

For resources on Voter Registration go to www.iVoteValues.com

For resources on Current Issues and the Christian's Civic Responsibility go to www.ERLC.com

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