By the time the polls closed on Election Day 2000, over 75 million American adults who had the right to vote had not voted — 40 percent of those eligible to vote. According to Census Bureau numbers, three-quarters of those individuals (56.8 million) hadn't even bothered to register to vote.
Those numbers concerned Richard Land and were the impetus behind the development of iVoteValues.com, an initiative to register and educate voters launched by the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in 2004. Land is president of the ERLC.
The goal of the "grassroots voter mobilization and education effort" again this year is to register previously unregistered but eligible Americans for the 2008 election cycle. The initiative also will work to promote an awareness of the immediate and long-term importance of "values-based voting." The effort's linchpin: the iVoteValues.com Web site.
While voter turnout among registered voters in the 2004 contest between Senator John Kerry and President George W. Bush edged up to 88.5 percent, over a quarter of the voting-age population (27.9 percent) were not even registered to vote in that election. Equally important, Land was concerned many voters who did vote didn't consider scriptural precepts when they voted, a view bolstered by a July 2003 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Just over a third of Americans indicated their faith has some impact on their voting decisions, according to the study, "Religion and Politics: Contention and Consensus."
"For the most part, people say religion does not frequently affect their voting decisions," says the Pew Forum Study. "Nearly six-in-ten (58 percent) say their religious beliefs seldom if ever affect their voting decisions, while 38 percent say their vote choices are at least occasionally affected by their beliefs."
Another study confirmed that most Americans leave their faith out of their voting decisions. Only 39 percent of adults surveyed by the Gallup organization in November 2003 said their personal religious beliefs were very important or extremely important in making choices in the polling booth.
The biblical footing for iVoteValues.com's call to civic engagement by Christians and other Americans is solid, according to Land, noting Jesus urges His followers to be "salt" and "light" in the culture (Matthew 5). Land emphasizes that participation in the electoral process should be an important element of every believer's life.
While there are those who believe Americans must segregate their religious beliefs from their civic involvement, that doesn't square with Scripture. If God Himself ordained the civil magistrate (government) as one of three social institutions (Romans 13), who are we to shun involvement in it? From the Bible we know that men like Joseph and Daniel were a part of the government in their day, serving for God's glory.
Through the act of voting and support for candidates whose beliefs line up with scriptural teachings, Christians can help usher in public policies that provide for justice and mercy for the citizenry, as well as protection for the unborn. Yet our civic involvement does not relieve the Body of Christ from its obligation to care for those in need. Government has its role to fill and the church likewise. Society suffers when either fails to fulfill its role or when one or the other subsumes the role of the other.
Looking to Scripture, Land is confident God expects Christians to register to vote and vote for the candidates whose positions most closely square with His values. That is the message of the iVoteValues.com suite of resources, particularly the effort's Web site that allows citizens to begin the voter registration process, details elements of the two major party's platforms, and delineates the Bible's position on many critical issues.
When citizens make their voting decisions based on a candidate's beliefs and convictions, instead of the candidate's party or promises, the outcome is bound to be better for our nation.
iVoteValues.com provides churches with non-partisan voter registration and voter awareness resources that are well within the Internal Revenue Service's interpretation of tax code restrictions for 501(c)(3) organizations.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission will release an issue-by-issue comparison of the points of the two major party platforms in late summer. The guide, which contains no analysis or commentary, is suitable for distribution within a church setting. It is a thoroughly non-partisan piece. You may register your e-mail address at iVoteValues.com to be notified when the comparison guide is released.
If Richard Land has his way, the 2008 elections will go down in history with the highest voter participation ever and more Americans of faith than ever will understand the Bible does have something to say about their voting decisions.
Voting Biblically-based Values and Principles
The iVoteValues.com initiative urges Americans to register to vote, to educate themselves on the issues, and to vote their biblically-based values, beliefs, and convictions on Election Day. Learn more about the importance of voting your values by visiting iVoteValues.com. The iVoteValues.com political party platform comparison guide, which contains no analysis or commentary, will be available early this fall. The guide, which conforms with all IRS regulations for distribution within a 501(c)(3) entity, is crafted by carefully excerpting the Democratic and Republican Party platforms on a wide range of issues of concern to families. Sign up at iVoteValues.com and you'll be notified when the political party platform comparison guide is released.